THE VALLEY OF THE
THE VALLEY OF THE
Copyright, 1919, by
All rights reserved
ONE WHO WAITED
FOR THIS STORY
And the Lord spake unto Moses saying:
Speak unto Aaron saying whosoever he be of thy seed
in their generations that hath any blemish let him not
approach to offer the bread of his God.
LEVITICUS xxi. 16-17.
In the parlor, as they call it, or best room of every
Irish farmhouse, one may come upon a certain number
of books that are never read, laid there in lonely re-
pose upon the big square table on the middle of the floor.
A novel entitled * ' Knocknagow ' ' is almost always certain
to be amongst them, yet scarcely as the result of selec-
tion, although its constant occurrence cannot be consid-
ered purely accidental. There must lurk an explanation
somewhere about these quiet Irish houses connecting the
very atmosphere with " Knocknagow*' A stranger,
thinking of some of the great books of the world, would
almost feel inclined to believe that this story of the quiet
homesteads of Ireland must be one of them, a book full
of inspiration and truth and beauty, a story sprung from
the bleeding realities which were before the present com-
fort of these homes. Yet for all the expectations which
might be raised up in one by this most popular, this
typical Irish novel, it is most certainly the book with
which the new Irish novelist would endeavor to contrast
his own. For he would be writing of life, as the modern
novelist's art is essentially a realistic one, and not of
the queer, distant, half pleasing, half saddening thing
which could make one Irish farmer's daughter say to
another at any time within the past forty years :
i ' And you 'd often see things happening nearly in real
life like in * Knocknagow. ' Now wouldn 't you ? ' '
Nearer by a long way than Charles Joseph Kickham
x PREFATORY NOTE
to what the Irish novelist should have been was "William
Carleton in his great, gloomy, melodramatic stories of
the land. He was prevented by the agrarian obsession
of his time from having the clear vision and wide pity,
in keeping with his vehemence, which might have made
him the Irish Balzac.
Even in Ireland Lever and Lover have become un-
popular. They are read only by Englishmen who still
try to perpetuate their comic convention when they write
newspaper articles about Ireland.
As with Kickham, largely in his treatment of the Irish
peasant, Gerald Griffin in "The Collegians" did not
succeed in giving his Irish middle or "strong farmer"
class characters the spiritual energy so necessary to the
Here are five writers then, who included in their work
such exact opposites as saints and sinners, heroes and
omadhanns, earnest passionate men and broths of "bhoys.
And somehow between them, between those who wrote to
degrade us and those who have idealized us, the real
Irishman did not come to be set down. From its fiction,
reality was absent, as from most other aspects of Irish
To a certain extent the realistic method has been em-
ployed by the dramatists of the Irish Literary Move-
ment, but necessarily limited by the scope and conven-
tions of the stage and by the narrower appeal of the
spoken word in the mouth of an actor. The stage, too,
has a way of developing cults and conventions and of its
very nature must display a certain amount of artificial-
ity, even in the handling of realistic material. Thus
comes a sudden stagnation, a sudden completion always
PREFATORY NOTE xi
of a literary movement developed mostly upon the dra-
matic side, as has come upon the work of the Abbey
It appears rather accidental, but perhaps on the whole
to its benefit, that the dramatic form should have been
adopted by J. M. Synge and not the epical form of the
novel. Synge fell with a lash of surprise upon the Ire-
land of his time, for the Irish play had been as fully
degraded as the Irish novel. Furthermore the shock of
his genius created an opportunity which made possible
the realistic Irish novelist. At the Abbey Theater they
performed plays dealing with subjects which no Irish
novelist, thinking of a public, would have dreamt of
handling. Somehow their plays have come to be known
and accepted throughout Ireland. Thus a reading pub-
lic for this realistic Irish novel has been slowly created
and the urge to write like this has come to many story-
Of necessity, as part of the reaction from the work of
the feeble masters we have known, the first examples
of the new Irish novel were bound to be a little savage
and pitiless. In former pictures of Irish life there was
heavy labor always to give us the shade at the expense
of the light, in fact at the expense of the truth which
is life itself. In Ireland the protest of the realist is not
so much against Romanticism as against an attempt made
to place before us a pseudo-realism. According as the
Irish people resign themselves to the fact that this is not
a thing which should not be done, the work of the Irish
realist will approximate more nearly to the quality of
the Russian novelists, in which there are neither exag-
gerations of Light nor of Shade, but a picture of life all
xii PREFATORY NOTE
gray and quiet, and brightened only by the beauty of
It leaves room for interesting speculation, that at a
time of political chaos, at a time when in Ireland there
is a great coming and going of politicians of all brands,
dreamers, sages and mystics, the decline of the Irish Lit-
erary Movement on its dramatic side should have given
the realistic Irish novelist his opportunity to appear.
The urgent necessity of reality in Irish life at the mo-
ment fills one with the thought that a school of Irish
realists might have brought finer things to the heart of
Ireland than the Hy Brazil of the politicians.
The function of the Irish novelist to evoke reality has
been proved in the case of ' ' The Valley of the Squinting
Windows. ' ' Upon its appearance the people of that part
of Ireland with whom I deal in my writings became
highly incensed. They burned my book after the best
medieval fashion and resorted to acts of healthy vio-
lence. The romantic period seemed to have been cut out
of their lives and they were full of life again. The story
of my story became widely exaggerated through gradu-
ally increasing venom and my book, which had been well
received by the official Irish Press, whose reviewers
generally read the books they write about was supposed
by some of my own people to contain the most frightful
things. To the peasant mind, fed so long upon unreal
tales of itself, the thing I had done became identified
after the most incongruous fashion and very curiously
with an aspect of the very literary association from
which I had sprung. Language out of Synge's " Play-
boy of the Western World'* came to my ears from every
side during the days in which I was made to suffer for
PREFATORY NOTE xiii
having written " The Valley of the Squinting Windows. "
"And saving your presence, sir, are you the man that
killed your father?"
"lam, God help me!"
"Well then, my thousand blessings to you!"
The country as a whole did not dislike my picture of
Irish life or say it was untrue. It was only the particu-
lar section of life which was pictured that still asserted
its right to the consolation of romantic treatment, but in
its very attempt to retain romance in theory it became
realistic in practise. It did exactly what it should have
done a great many years ago with the kind of books from
which it drew a certain poisonous comfort towards its
own intellectual and political enslavement. The rest of
Ireland was amused by the performance of those who
did not think, with Mr. Yeats, that romantic Ireland was
dead and gone. The realist had begun to evoke reality
and no longer did a great screech sound through the land
that this kind of thing should not be done. A change
had come, by miraculous coincidence, upon the soul of
Ireland. It was not afraid of realism now, for it had
faced the tragic reality of the travail which comes be-
fore a healthy national consciousness can be born. No
longer would the realist be described in his own country
as merely a morbid scoundrel or an enemy of the Irish
people. They would not need again the solace of the
sentimental novelist for all the offenses of the carica-
turists in Irish fiction, because, with the wider and
clearer vision of their own souls fully realized, had they
already begun to look out upon the world.
Dublin, March 1st, 1919.
THE VALLEY OF THE
THE VALLEY OF THE SQUINTING
MRS. BRENNAN took her seat again at the sewing-
machine by the window. She sighed as she turned
her tired eyes in search of some inducement to solace
down the white road through the valley of Tullahanogue.
The day was already bright above the fields and groups
of children were beginning to pass through the morning
on their way to school. Mrs. Brennan beheld their
passage, yet now as always she seemed to miss the small
beauty of the little pageant.
1 * God help them, the poor little things ! ' ' she condoled
to herself, "and may He enlighten the unfortunate
parents who send them to that quare, ould, ignorant pair,
Master Donnellan and Mrs. Wyse, the mistress. Musha,
sure they're no teachers!"
From this it might seem that Mrs. Brennan, the dress-
maker of the valley and one well entitled to be giving
out an opinion, did not think very highly of National
Education. Yet it was not true that she failed to regard
the lofty fact of education with all a peasant's stupid
reverence, for was she not the mother of John Brennan,
who was now preparing for the priesthood at a grand
college in England? A priest, mind you! That was
what you might call something for a woman to be !
2 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
The pride of her motherhood struck a high and re-
sounding note in the life of the valley. Furthermore, it
gave her authority to assert herself as a woman of re-
markable standing amongst the people. She devoted her
prerogative to the advancement of the Catholic Church.
She manifested herself as one intensely interested in its
welfare. There was no cheap religious periodical, from
The Catholic Times to The Messenger, that she did not
regularly purchase. All these she read to her husband,
Ned Brennan, in the long quiet evenings after the man-
ner of one discharging a religious duty.
This was a curious side of her. She kept him in com-
fort and in ease, and yet when his body had been con-
tented she must needs apply herself to the welfare of his
soul. For, although he spent many a penny of her
money in the village of Garradrimna, was he not the
father of John Brennan, who was going to be a priest
of God? She forgave him everything on this account,
even the coarse and blasphemous expressions he continu-
ally let fly from his mouth the while she read for him
the most holy stories by Jesuit Fathers.
Just now she had given him two shillings with which
to entertain himself. He had threatened to strike her
in the event of her refusal. . . . That was why she had
been sighing and why the tears were now creeping into
her great tired eyes as she began to set her machine in
motion for the tasks of the day. Dear, dear, wasn't he
the cruel, hard man? . . . Yet beyond all this thought
of him was her bright dream of the day when, with the
few pounds she had saved so secretly from the wide grasp
of his thirst, she must fit him out in a rich suit of black
and go by his side proudly to attend the ordination of
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 3
their son John. It was because she so dearly loved her
dream that she bore him with immense patience.
Also it was because she had been thinking of that
grand day and of the descending splendor of her son
that she now commented so strongly upon the passage
of the children to school. She had spoken bitterly to
her own heart, but in that heart of hers she was a bitter
This was such a sunny, lovely morning. It was the
day of the June Races in the town of Mullaghowen, and
most of the valley-dwellers had gone there. The wind-
ing, dusty road through Tullahanogue was a long lane
of silence amid the sunlight. It appeared as an avenue
to the Palace of Dreams. So it was not at all strange
that Mrs. Brennan was dreaming forward into the future
and filling her mind with fancies of the past. She was
remembering herself as Nan Byrne, the prettiest girl in
the valley. This was no illusion of idle vanity, for was
there not an old daguerreotype in an album on the table
behind her at this very moment to prove that beauty
had been hers? And she had been ruined because of
that proud beauty. It was curious to think how her
sister and she had both gone the same way. . . . The
period of a generation had passed since the calamity
had fallen upon them almost simultaneously. It was
the greatest scandal that had ever happened in these
parts. The holy priest, whose bones were now molder-
ing beneath the sanctuary of the chapel, had said hard
words of her. From the altar of God he had spoken
his pity of her father, and said that she was a bad
"May God strengthen him, for this is the bitter bur-
4 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
den to bear. Philip Byrne is a decent man for all his
daughter Nan is a woman of shame. I pray you avoid
her every one who has the trace of God's purity in his
heart. Let you go not into that house which she has
made an abode of lust, nor allow the fair name of your
own house to be blemished by the contamination of her
presence within its walls."
Yes, it was true that all this had been said of her by
the holy father, and in the very spot beneath which his
bones were now at rest. They were the hard words
surely to have issued from the lips of God's annointed.
Even in the fugitive remembrance of them now they
seemed to have left red marks like whip-lash weals
across her soul. The burning hurt of them drove her
deeper into remembrance. She had already come to the
full development of her charms when her ambition had
also appeared. It was, in short, to effect the "catch"
of one of the strong farmers of the valley. She entered
into conspiracy with her sister and, together, they laid
their plans. Henry Shannon was the one upon whom
she had set her eye and Loughlin Mulvey the one her
sister Bridget had begun to desire. They were both
men of family and substance, and hard drinkers after
the fashion of the fields. They often called at the house
to see the sisters. Philip Byrne, whose occupation as
head-groom at the stables of the Moores of Garradrimna
often took him away from Ireland, would always be
absent during those visitations. But their mother would
be there, Mrs. Abigail Byrne, ambitious for her daugh-
ters, in great style. It was never known to happen that
either of the strong farmers called to the house without
a bottle of whiskey. Mrs. Byrne always looked favor-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 5
ably upon them for their high decency, and the whiskey
was good whiskey.
Here in this very room where she now sat remember-
ing it all there had been such scenes! Her hair had
been so thick and brown and there had been a rare bloom
upon her skin as she had sat here alone with Henry
Shannon, talking with him of queer things and kissing
his dark, handsome face. And all through those far, by-
gone times she used to be thinking of his grand house
and of his broad fields and the way she would one day
assert herself in the joy of such possessions over her less
fortunate sisters of the valley. Yet, ever mixed with
her bright pieces of imagination, there had been such
torturing doubts. . . . Her sister Bridget had always
been so certain of her prey.
There had been times when Henry Shannon spent the
night in the house. In those nights had been laid the
foundations of her shame. . . . Very, very clearly did
she remember the sickening, dreadful morning she had
come to her mother with the story that she was going to
have a child. How angry the elder woman had been, so
lit within her all the wild instincts of the female against
the betrayer of her sex? Why had she gone so far?
"Why had she not played her cards like her sister?
There was no fear of her yet although she had got a
proper hold of Loughlin Mulvey. . . . What was she to
do at all? She who had had great ambitions was to
become lower than the lowest in the valley.
Yet the three of them had conferred together, for all
the others were so angry with her because of her disas-
trous condition into which she had allowed herself to
slip without having first made certain of Henry Shan-
6 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
non. The only course left now was to "make a show"
of him if he could not see his way to marry her.
She could now remember every line of the angry,
misspelled letter she had sent to her whilom lover, and
how it had brought him to the house in a mood of
drunken repentance. He presented her with material
for a new dress on the very same night, and, as she
laughed and cried over it in turn, she though how very
curious it was that he should wish to see her figure richly
adorned when already it had begun to put on those signs
of disfigurement which announce the coming of a child.
But he was very, very kind, and all suspicion fell away
from her. Before he went he whispered an invitation
to spend a few days with him in Dublin. . . . What did
it matter now, and it was so kind of him to ask her?
It showed what was in his mind, and therefore no talk
of marriage passed between them. It did not seem
Then had followed quickly those lovely days in Dub-
lin, she stopping with him as "Mrs. Henry Shannon" at
a grand hotel. He had given her a wedding-ring, but
while it remained upon her finger it was ever the little
accusing symbol, filling her with an intense conviction of
This great adventure had marked the beginning of
her acquaintance with the world beyond the valley, and,
even now, through the gloom of her mood, she could re-
member it with a certain amount of gladness coming
back to her mind. But it was queer that the brighest
moment of her life should also have been the moment of
darkest disaster. . . . She re-created the slight incidents
of their quarrel. It was so strange of him after all the
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 7
grand kindness he had just been showing her. . . . She
had returned to the valley alone and with her disgrace
already beginning to be heavy upon her. . . . She never
saw Henry Shannon or spoke with him again. When
she wrote referring distantly to their approaching mar-
riage and making mention of the wedding-ring, the re-
ply came back from Mr. Robinson, the solicitor in Garra-
drimna, who was his cousin and sporting companion.
She knew how they had already begun to talk of her in
the valley for having gone off to Dublin with Henry
Shannon, and now, when an ugly word to describe her
appeared there black and plain in the solicitor's letter,
she felt, in blind shame, that the visit to Dublin had
been planned to ruin her. The air of the valley seemed
full of whispers to tell her that she had done a mon-
strous thing. Maybe they could give her jail for hav-
ing done a thing like that, and she knew well that Henry
Shannon's people would stop at nothing to destroy her,
for they were a dark, spiteful crew. They were rich
and powerful, with lawyers in the family, and what
chance would she have in law now that every one was
turned against her. So that night she went out when
it was very dark and threw away the wedding-ring.
The small, sad act appeared as the renunciation of her
She remembered with a surpassing clearness the wide
desolation of the time that followed. Loughlin Mulvey
had been compelled to marry her sister Bridget because
he had not been clever enough to effect a loophole of
escape like Henry Shannon. Already three months
after the marriage (bit by bit was she now living the
past again ) the child had been born to Bridget, and now
8 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
she herself was waiting for the birth of her child. . . .
Indeed Bridget need not have been so angry.
She had been delirious and upon the brink of death,
and when, at last, she had recovered sufficiently to real-
ize the sharpness of her mother's tongue once more the
child had disappeared. She had escaped to England
with all that was left of her beauty. There she had met
Ned Brennan, and there had her son John Brennan been
born. For a short while she had known happiness.
Ned was rough, but in his very strength there was a
sense of security and protection which made him bear-
able. And there was little John. He was not a bit like
her short, wild impression of the other little child. Her
disgrace had been the means of bringing Philip Byrne
to his grave; and, after six or seven years, her mother
had died, and she had returned to the valley of Tulla-
hanogue. It was queer that, with all her early knowl-
edge of the people of the valley, she had never thought
it possible that some of them would one day impart to
him the terrible secret she had concealed so well while
acting the ingenuous maiden before his eyes.
Yet they were not settled a month at the cottage in
the valley when Ned came from Garradrimna one night
a changed man. Larry Cully, a loafer of the village,
had attacked him with the whole story. . . . Was this
the kind of people among whom she had brought him to
live, and was this a fact about her? She confessed her
share, but, illtreat her how he would, she could not tell
him what had been done with the child.
Henceforth he was so different, settling gradually
into his present condition. He could not go about mak-
ing inquiries as to the past of his wife, and the people
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 9
of the valley, gloating over his condition, took no pains
to ease his mind. It was more interesting to see him
torture himself with suspicion. They hardly fancied she
had told him all. It was grand to see him drinking in
his endeavors to forget the things he must needs be
Thus had Mrs. Brennan lived with her husband for
eighteen years, and no other child had been born to
them. His original occupation of plumber's laborer
found no opportunity for its exercise in the valley, but
he sometimes lime-washed stables and mended roofs and
gutters. For the most part, however, she kept him
through her labor at the machine.
Her story was not without its turn of pathos, for it
was strange to think of her reading the holy books to
him in the long, quiet evenings all the while he despised
her for what she had been with a hatred that all the
magnanimous examples of religion could not remove.
She was thinking over it all now, and so keenly, for
he had just threatened to strike her again. Eighteen
years had not removed from his mind the full and bitter
realization of her sin. . . . They were both beginning to
grow gray, and her living atonement for what she had
been, her son John who was going on for the Church,
was in his twentieth year. Would her husband forgive
her when he saw John in the garb of a priest? She
wondered and wondered.
So deep was she in this thought that she did not no-
tice the entrance of old Marse Prendergast, who lived in
a cabin just across the road. Marse was a super-
annuated shuiler and a terror in the valley. The tears
had been summoned to her eyes by the still unchang-
10 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
ing quality of Ned's tone. They were at once detected
by the old woman.
" Still crying, are ye, Nan Byrne, for Henry Shannon
that's dead and gone?"
This was a sore cut, but it was because of its severity
that it had been given. Marse Prendergast's method
was to attack the person from whom she desired an alms
instead of making an approach in fear and trembling.
"Well, what's the use in regretting now that he didn't
marry ye after all? ... Maybe you could give me a
bit of Ned's tobacco for me little pipe, or a few coppers
to buy some.''
"I will in troth," she said, searching her apron pocket,
only to discover that Ned had taken all her spare cop-
pers. She communicated her regrets to the old woman,
but her words fell upon ears that doubted.
"Ah-ha, the lie is on your lip yet, Nan Byrne, just
as it was there for your poor husband the day he mar-
ried you, God save us all from harm you who were
what you were before you went away to England. And
now the cheek you have to go refuse me the few coppers.
Ye think ye 're a great one, don't you, with your son
at college, and he going on to be a priest. Well, let
me tell you that a priest hell never be, your grand son,
John. Ye have the quare nerve to imagine it indeed if
you ever think of what happened to your other little
son. . . . Maybe 'tis what ye don't remember that, Nan
Bryne. . . . The poor little thing screeching in the
night-time, and some one carrying a box out into the gar-
den in the moonlight, and them digging the hole. . . .
Ah, 'tis well I know all that, Nan Byrne, although you
may think yourself very clever and mysterious. And
VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 11
'tis maybe I'll see you swing for it yet with your re-
fusals and the great annoyance you put me to for the
means of a smoke, and I a real ould woman and all. But
listen here to me, Nan Byrne! "Tis maybe to your
grand son, John Brennan, I'll be telling the whole story
HER tongue still clacking in soliloquy, Marse Pren-
dergast hobbled out of the house, and Mrs. Bren-
nan went to the small back window of the sewing-room.
She gazed wistfully down the long, sloping fields to-
wards the little lake which nestled in the bosom of the
valley. Within the periods of acute consciousness which
came between her sobs she began to examine the curious
edifice of life which housed her soul. An unaccount-
able, swift power to do this came to her as she saw the
place around which she had played as a child, long
ago, when she had a brow snow-white and smooth, with
nice hair and laughing eyes. Her soul, too, at that
time was clean clean like the water. And she was wont
to have glad thoughts of the coming years when she had
sprung to girlhood and could wear pretty frocks and
bind up her hair. Across her mind had never fallen
the faintest shadow of the thing that was to happen to
Yet now, as she ran over everything in her mind, she
marveled not a little that, although she could not pos-
sibly have returned to the perfect innocence of her child-
hood state, she had triumphed over the blight of certain
circumstances to an extraordinary extent. She was sur-
prised to realize that there must have been some strength
of character in her not possessed by the other women
of the valley. It had been her mother's mark of dis-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 13
tinction, but the dead woman had used it towards the
achievement of different ends. Ends, too, which had
left their mark upon the lives of both her daughters.
It struck her now, with another lash of surprise, that
it had been an amazingly cheeky thing to have returned
to the valley; but, as the shining waters of the lake
led her mind into the quiet ways of contemplation, she
could not help thinking that she had triumphed well.
To be living here at all with such a husband, and her
son away in England preparing for the priesthood,
seemed the very queerest, queerest thing. It was true
that she held herself up well and had a fine conceit of
herself, if you please. The mothers of the neighborhood
had, for the most part, chosen to forget the contamina-
tion that might have arisen from sending their daugh-
ters to a woman like her for their dresses, and, in eon-
sequence, she had been enabled to build up this little
business. She asserted herself in the ways of assertion
which were open to the dwellers in the valley. She at-
tended to her religious duties with admirable regularity.
It was not alone that she fulfilled the obligation of hear-
ing Mass on Sundays and Holy days, but also on many
an ordinary morning when there was really no need to
be so very pious. She went just to show them that she
was passionately devoted to religion. Yet her neigh-
bors never once regarded her in the light of a second
Mary Magdalene. They entered into competition with
her, it was true, for they could not let it be said that
Nan Byrne was more religious than they, and so, be-
tween them, they succeeded in degrading the Mysteries.
But it was the only way that was open to them of show-
ing off their souls.
14 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
On a Sunday morning the procession they formed was
like a flock of human crows. And the noise they made
was a continual caw of calumny. The one presently ab-
sent was set down as the sinner. They were eternally
the Pharisees and she the Publican. Mrs. Brennan was
great among these crows of calumny. It was her place
of power. She could give out an opinion coming home
from Mass upon any person at all that would almost
take the Hearing out of your ears. She effectively beat
down the voice of criticism against herself by her sweep-
ing denunciations of all others. It was an unusual
method, and resembled that of Marse Prendergast, the
shuiler, from whom it may probably have been copied.
It led many to form curious estimates as to the exact
type of mind possessed by the woman who made use of
it. There were some who described it as "thickness,"
a rather remarkable designation given to a certain qual-
ity of temper by the people of the valley. But there
was no denying that it had won for her a cumulative
series of results which had built up about her some-
thing definite and original and placed her resolutely
in the life of the valley.
She would often say a thing like this, and it might
be taken as a good example of her talk and as throwing
a light as well upon the conversation of those with whom
she walked home the road from the House of God. A
young couple would have done the best thing by marry-
ing at the right age, and these long-married women with
the queer minds would be putting before them the very
worst prospects. Mrs. Brennan would distinguish her-
self by saying a characteristic thing:
"Well, if there's quarreling between them, and
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 15
musha ! the same is sure to be, the names they '11 call one
another won't be very nice for the pedigree is not too
clean on either side of the house."
No word of contradiction or comment would come
from the others, for this was a morsel too choice to be
disdained, seeing that it so perfectly expressed their
own thoughts and the most intimate wishes of their
hearts. It was when they got home, however, and, dur-
ing the remaining portion of the Sunday, their happy
carnival of destructive gossip, that they would think of
asking themselves the question "What right had Nan
Byrne of all people to be thinking of little slips that
had happened in the days gone by?" But the unrea-
sonableness of her words never appeared in this light to
her own mind. She was self-righteous to an enormous
degree, and it was her particular fancy to consider all
women as retaining strongly their primal degradation.
And yet it was at such a time she remembered, not
penitently however, or in terms of abasement, but with
a heavy sadness numbing her every faculty. It was her
connection with a great sin and her love for her son
John which would not become reconciled.
When she returned to the valley with her husband
and her young child she had inaugurated her life's
dream. Her son John was to be her final justification
before the world and, in a most wondrous way, had her
dream begun to come true. She had reared him well,
and he was so different from Ned Brennan. He was
of a kindly disposition and, in the opinion of Master
Donnellan, who was well hated by his mother, gave
promise of great things. He had passed through the
National School in some way that was known only to
16 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Mrs. Brennan, to "a grand College in England." He
appeared as an extraordinary exception to the breed of
the valley, especially when one considered the characters
of both his parents.
Mrs. Brennan dearly loved her son, but even here, as
in every phase of her life, the curious twist of her na-
ture revealed itself. Hers was a selfish love, for it had
mostly to do with the triumph he represented for her
before the people of the valley. But this was her dream,
and a dream may often become dearer than a child. It
was her one sustaining joy, and she could not bear to
think of any shadow falling down to darken its gran-
deur. The least suspicion of a calamity of this kind al-
ways had the effect of reducing to ruins the brazen
front of the Mrs. Brennan who presented herself to
the valley and of giving her a kind of fainting in her
Her lovely son! She wiped her tear-stained cheeks
now with the corner of her black apron, for Farrell Mc-
Guinness, the postman, was at the door. He said,
' ' Good-morra, Mrs. Brennan !" and handed her a let-
ter. It was from John, telling her that his summer
holidays were almost at hand. It seemed strange that,
just now, when she had been thinking of him, this let-
ter should have come. . . . Well, well, how quickly the
time passed, now that the snow had settled upon her
Farrell McGuinness was loitering by the door waiting
to have a word with her when she had read her letter.
"I hear Mary Cooney over in Cruckenerega is home
from Belfast again. Aye, and that she 's shut herself up
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 17
in a room and not one can see a sight of her. Isn't
that quare now? Isn't it, Mrs. Brennan?"
"It's great, isn't it, Farrell? You may be sure
there's something the matter with her."
' * God bless us now, but wouldn 't that be the hard blow
to her father and mother and to her little sisters?'*
"Arrah musha, between you and me and the wall, the
divil a loss. What could she be, anyhow?"
"That's true for you, Mrs. Brennan!"
"Aye, and to think that it was in Belfast, of all places,
that it happened. Now, d'ye know what I'm going to
tell ye, Farrell? 'Tis the bad, Orange, immoral hole of
a place is the same Belfast!"
FABRELL McGUINNESS, grinning to himself, had
moved away on his red bicycle, and a motor now
came towards her in its envelope of dust down the long
road of Tullahanogue. This was the first hire motor
that had appeared in the village of Garradrimna and
was the property of Charlie Clarke, an excellent, re-
ligious man, who had interested himself so successfully
in bazaars and the charities that he had been thus
enabled to purchase it. Its coming amongst them had
been a sensational occurrence. If a neighbor wished to
flout a neighbor it was done by hiring Clarke 's car ; arid
Mrs. Brennan immediately thought what a grand thing
it would be to take it on the coming Thursday and make
a brave show with her son John sitting up beside her
and he dressed in black. The dignity of her son, now
moving so near the priesthood, demanded such a demon-
stration. She hailed Charlie Clarke, and the car came
suddenly to a standstill. The petrol fumes mingling
with the rising dust of the summer road, floated to her
nostrils like some incense of pride.
"Good morning, Mrs. Brennan !"
"Good morning, Mr. Clarke!"
"You're not at the races of Mullaghowen?"
"Not yet, Mrs. Brennan, but I'm going and with
the Houlihans of Clonabroney. "
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 19
"The Houlihans of Clonabroney, well, well; that's
what you might call a quality drive."
* ' Oh, indeed, 'tis almost exclusively to the quality and
to the priests my drives are confined, Mrs. Brennan.
I'm not patronized by the beggars of the valley."
1 'That's right, Mr. Clarke, that's right. Keep your
car clean at all costs. ... It's what I just stopped you
to see if you could drive me over to Kilaconnaghan to
meet my son John on Thursday. He 's coining home. ' '
"Is that so? Well you may say that's grand, Mrs.
Brennan. Oh, indeed, John is the rare credit to you,
so he is. You should be proud of him, for 'tis the fine
beautiful thing to be going on for the Church. In fact,
do ye know what it is, Mrs. Brennan? Only I'm mar-
ried, I'd be thinking this very minute of giving up mo-
tor, shop, land and everything and going into a monas-
tery. I would so."
"Now aren't you the fine, noble-minded man to be
thinking of the like?"
"I am so. ... Well, I'll drive you, Mrs. Brennan.
On Thursday, you say, to Kilaconnaghan. The round
trip will cost you fifteen shillings."
Charlie Clarke had already re-started the car which
was again humming dustily down the road. Mrs. Bren-
nan turned wearily into the sewing-room and seated her-
self once more by the machine. She was crushed a
little by the thought of the fifteen shillings. She saw
clearly before her the long procession of the hours of
torture for her eyes that the amount represented. It
appeared well that she had not given the few coppers
to old Marse Prendergast, for, even as things stood,
30 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
she must approach some of her customers towards the
settlement of small accounts to enable her to spend fif-
teen shillings in the display of her pride. . . . For
eighteen years it had been thus with her, this continual
scraping and worrying about money. She wondered
and wondered now was she ever destined to find release
from mean tortures. Maybe when her son had become
a priest he would be good to his mother? She had
known of priests and the relatives of priests, who had
grown amazingly rich.
She was recalled from her long reverie by the return
of Ned Brennan from Garradrimna. The signs of drink
were upon him.
"Where's me dinner ?" he said, in a flat, heavy voice.
"Your dinner, is it? Oh dear, dear, 'tis how I never
thought of putting it on yet. I had a letter from John,
and sure it set me thinking. God knows I'll have it
ready for you as soon as I can."
"Aye, John. A letter from John. . . . Begad . . .
Begad . . . And I wanting me dinner ! ' '
"So you'll have it, so you'll have it. Now aren't
you the wild, impatient man? Can't you wait a min-
' ' I never did see such a woman as you, and I in a com-
plete hurry. Three slates slipped down off the school
roof in the bit of wind the other night, and I'm after
getting instructions from Father O'Keeffe to put them
"Ah, sure, 'tis well I know how good and industrious
you are, Ned. That's the sixth time this year you've
put on the very same slates. You're a good man, in-
deed, and a fine tradesman."
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 21
For the moment his anger was appeased by this iron-
ical compliment, which she did not intend as irony ; but
at heart he was deeply vexed because he was going to
do this little job. She knew he must be talking of it
for months to come. When the few shillings it brought
him were spent she must give him others and others as
a continuous reward for his vast effort. This she must
do as a part of her tragic existence, while beholding at
the same time how he despised her in his heart.
But, just now, the bitterness of this realization did
not assail her with the full power of the outer darkness,
for her mind was lit brilliantly to-day by the thought
of John. And during the hours that passed after she
had fitted out Ned for his adventurous expedition to the
roof she could just barely summon up courage to turn
the machine, so consumed was she by a great yearning
for her son.
The days, until Thursday, seemed to stretch them-
selves into an age. But at three o'clock, when Charlie
Clarke's white motor drew up at the door, she was still
preparing for the journey. In the room which had
known another aspect of her life she had been adorning
herself for long hours. The very best clothes and all
the personal ornaments in her possession must needs be
brought into use. For it had suddenly appeared to her
that she was about to enter into an unique ceremony
comparable only to the ordination of John.
Searching in an unfrequented drawer of the dressing-
table for hair-pins, she had come upon an old cameo-
brooch, one of Henry Shannon's costly presents to her
during the period of their strange "honeymoon." It
was a pretty thing, so massive and so respectable-look-
22 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
ing. It was of that heavy Victorian period to which
her story also belonged. With trembling hands she
fastened it upon her bosom. In a deeper recess of the
drawer she came upon a powder puff in a small round
box, which still held some of the aid to beauty remain-
ing dry and useful through all the years. She had once
used it to heighten her graces in the eyes of Henry
Shannon. And now, for all the blanching trouble
through which she had passed, she could not resist the
impulses of the light woman in her and use it to assert
her pride in her son. It must be a part of her decking-
out as she passed through the valley in a motor for the
first time, going forth to meet her son.
She took her seat at last by the side of Charlie Clarke,
and passed proudly down the valley road. Things
might have gone as agreeably as she had planned but
for the peculiar religious warp there was in Charlie.
He might have talked about the mechanism of his car
or remarked at length upon the beauty of the summer
day, but he must inevitably twist the conversation in
the direction of religion.
"I suppose," said he, "that it's a fine thing to be the
mother of a young fellow going on for the Church. It
must make you very contented in yourself when you
think of all the Masses he will say for you during your
lifetime and all the Masses he will say for the repose of
your soul when you are dead and gone. ' '
"Aye, indeed, that's a grand and a true saying for
you, Mr. Clarke. But sure what else could one expect
from you, and yourself the good man that goes to Mass
"And, Mrs. Brennan, woman dear, to see him saying
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 23
the Holy Mass, and he having his face shining with the
Light of Heaven!"
"A beautiful sight, Mr. Clarke, as sure as you're
The car was speeding along merrily, and now it had
just passed, with a slight bump, over the culvert of a
stream, which here and there was playing musically
about little stones, and here arid there was like bits of
molten silver spitting in the sun. It was a grand day.
Whether or not the unusual sensation of the throbbing
car was too much for Mrs. Brennan, she was speaking
little although listening eagerly to the words of Charlie
Clarke, asking him once or twice to repeat some sen-
tences she had been kept from hearing by the noise of
the engine. Now she was growing more and more silent,
for they had not yet passed out of the barony of Tulla-
hanogue. She saw many a head suddenly fill many a
squinting window, and men and women they met on the
road turn round with a sneer to gaze back at her sitting
up there beside Charlie Clarke, the saintly chauffeur
who went to Mass every day.
Her ears were burning, and into her mind, in power-
ful battalions, were coming all the thoughts that had
just been born in the minds of the others. The powder
she had applied to her cheeks was now like a burning
sweat upon her skin. The cameo-brooch felt like a
great weight where it lay upon her bosom heavily. It
caught her breath and so prevented her maintaining
conversation with Charlie Clarke. It reminded her in-
sistently of the dear baby head of John reposing, as in
a bower of tenderness, upon the same place.
"It must be the grand and blessed thing for a mother
24 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
to go to confession to her son. Now wouldn't it be won-
derful to think of telling him, as the minister of God's
mercy, the little faults she had committed before he was
born or before she married his father. Now isn't that
the queer thought, Mrs. Brennari?"
She did not reply, and it took all she could marshal
of self-possession to protect her from tears as the motor
hummed into the village of Kilaconnaghan, where the
railway station was. They had arrived well in advance
of the tram's time. She passed through the little wait-
ing-room and looked into the advertisement for Jame-
son's Whiskey, which was also a mirror. She remem-
bered that it was in this very room she had waited be-
fore going away for that disastrous "honeymoon" with
Henry Shannon. . . . This was a better mirror than the
one at home, and she saw that the blaze upon her cheeks
had already subdued the power of the powder, making
it unnecessary and as the merest dirt upon her face. . . .
The cameo-brooch looked so large and gaudy. . . . She
momentarily considered herself not at all unlike some
faded women of the pavement she had seen move, like
malignant specters, beneath the lamplight in Dublin
city. . . . She plucked away the brooch from her bosom
and thrust it into her pocket. Then she wiped her face
clean with her handkerchief.
Far off, and as a glad sound coming tentatively to her
ears, she could hear the train that was bearing her be-
loved son home to the valley and to her. It was nearly
a year since she last saw him, and she fancied he must
have changed so within that space of time. Who knew
how he might change towards her some day? This was
her constant dread. And now as the increasing noise
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 25
of the train told that it was drawing nearer she felt im-
The few stray passengers who ever came to Kilacon-
naghan by the afternoon train had got out, and John
Brennan was amongst them. On the journey from Dub-
lin he had occupied a carriage with Myles Shannon, who
was the surviving brother of Henry Shannon and the
magnate of the valley. The time had passed pleasantly
enough, for Mr. Shannon was a well-read, interesting
man. He had spoken in an illuminating way of the
Great War. He viewed it in the light of a scourge and
a just reckoning of calamity that the nations must pay
for bad deeds they had done. "It is strange," said he,
"that even a nation, just like an individual, must pay its
just toll for its sins. It cannot escape, for the punish-
ment is written down with the sin. There is not one
of us who may not be made to feel the wide sweep of
God's justice in this Great War, even you, my boy, who
may think yourself far removed from such a possibil-
These were memorable words, and John Brennan al-
lowed himself to fall into a spell of silence that he might
the better ponder them. Looking up suddenly, he
caught the other gazing intently at him with a harsh
smile upon his face.
So now that they were to part they turned to shake
"Good-by, Mr. Brennan!" said Myles Shannon to
the student. "I wish you an enjoyable holiday-time.
Maybe you could call over some evening to see my
nephew Ulick, my brother Henry's son. He's here on
holidays this year for the first time, and he finds the
26 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
valley uncommonly dull after the delights of Dublin.
He's a gay young spark, I can tell you, but students
of physic are generally more inclined to be lively than
students of divinity."
This he said with a flicker of his harsh smile as they
shook hands, and John Brennan thanked him for his
kind invitation. Catching sight of Mrs. Brennan, Mr.
Shannon said, ' ' Good-day ! ' ' coolly and moved out of the
To Mrs. Brennan this short conversation on the plat-
form had seemed protracted to a dreadful length. As
she beheld it from a little distance a kind of desolation
had leaped up to destroy the lovely day. It compelled
her to feel a kind of hurt that her son should have
chosen to expend the few first seconds of his home-com-
ing in talking, of all people, to one of the Shannon
family. But he was a young gentleman and must, of
course, show off his courtesy and nice manners. And
he did not know . . . But Myles Shannon knew. . . .
His cool "Good-day*!" to her as he moved out of the
station appeared to her delicate sensitiveness of the
moment as an exhibition of his knowledge. Immediately
she felt that she must warn John against the Shannons.
He came towards her at last, a thin young man in
black, wearing cheap spectacles. He looked tenderly
upon the woman who had borne him. She embraced
him and entered into a state of rapt admiration. Within
the wonder of his presence she was as one translated,
her sad thoughts began to fall from her one by one.
On the platform of this dusty wayside station in Ire-
land she became a part .of the glory of motherhood as
she stood there looking with pride upon her son.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 27
The motor had surprised him. He would have been
better pleased if this expense had been avoided, for he
was not without knowledge and appreciation of the con-
dition of his parents' affairs. Besides the little donkey
and trap had always appeared so welcome in their sim-
plicity, and it was by means of them that all his former
home-comings had been effected. Those easy voyages
had afforded opportunity for contemplation upon the
splendor of the fields, but now the fields seemed to slip
past as if annoyed by their faithlessness. Yet he knew
that his mother had done this thing to please him, and
how could he find it in his heart to be displeased with
She was speaking kind words to him, which were being
rudely destroyed, in their tender intonation, by the noise
of the engine. She was setting forth the reasons why
she had taken the car. It was the right thing now
around Garradrimna. The Houlihans of Clonabroney.
Again the changing of the gears cut short her ex-
"That man who was down with you in the train, Mr.
Shannon, what was he saying to you?"
"Indeed he was kindly inviting me over to see his
nephew. I never knew he had a nephew, but it seems
he has lived up in Dublin. He said that his brother,
Henry Shannon, was the father of this young man."
The feelings which her son's words brought rushing
into her mind seemed to cloud out all the brightness
which, for her, had again returned to the day. Yes, this
young man, this Ulick Shannon, was the son of Henry
Shannon and Henry Shannon was the one who had
brought the great darkness into her life. ... It would
28 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
be queer, she thought, beyond all the queerness of the
world, to see the son of that man and her son walking
together through the valley. The things that must be
said of them, the terrible sneer by which they would be
surrounded Henry Shannon's son and the son of Nan
Byrne. . . . She grew so silent beneath the sorrow of
her vision that, even in the less noisy spaces of the hum-
ming car, the amount of time during which she did not
speak seemed a great while.
"What is the matter, mother?" said John Brennan.
"It was how I was thinking that maybe it would be
better now if you had nothing to do with the Shan-
* ' But it was very kind of Mr. Shannon to invite me. ' '
* ' I know, I know ; but I 'd rather than the world it was
any other family at all only the Shannons. They're a
In the painful silence that had come upon them she
too was thinking of the reasons from which her words
had sprung. Of how Henry Shannon had failed to
marry her after he had ruined her ; of how the disgrace
had done no harm at all to him with his money and his
fine farm. Then there was the burning thought of how
he had married Grace Gogarty, the proudest and grand-
est girl in the whole parish, and of how this young man
had been born prematurely and, by a curious chance,
about the same time as her own little child. The one
thing that she always dreaded more than any other,
in the pain of its remembrance, was the fact that Henry
Shannon had married Grace Gogarty directly after the
"honeymoon" with her in Dublin. Yes, it was hardest
of all to think of that, and of how Grace Gogarty had
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 29
so held up her head all through the short period of her
wedded life with Henry Shannon. And after his death
she had gone about with such conceited sorrowfulness
in her widow's weeds.
These thoughts had passed through her mind with
swift definition, each one cutting deeper the gap which
separated her from the long-dreamt-of joy of John's
home-coming. And her lovely son sitting up beside her
had grown so silent.
As the car stopped by the house and Ned Brennan
came out to meet them, unshaven and walking doggedly,
she felt very certain that a shadow had settled down
upon this particular return of John. The remembrance
of her sin, from which it seemed impossible to escape,
made the great thing she had planned so little and
THERE arose a continual coming and going of John
Brennan to and from the house of his mother
through the valley. He was an object of curiosity and
conjecture. The windows would squint at him as he
went past through power of the leering faces behind;
men working in the fields would run to the hedges and
gaze after him as he went far down the road.
In the evenings black prophets would foregather and
say: "Now isn't he the fine-looking young fellow in-
deed, with the grand black clothes upon him; but he'll
never be a priest, and that's as sure as you're there, for
his mother is Nan Byrne, and she was a bad woman, God
help us all! 'Tis a pity of him, when you come to
think of it, for it isn't his fault, happening as it did
before he was born."
John Brennan was innocent of guile, and so he did not
become aware of the attitude of those among whom he
passed. He did not realize that in his own person he
stood as an affront to them, that he was the Levite stand-
ing nearer God than they in their crude condition as
clods of the earth. It was his mother who had created
this position for him, for she had directed his studies
towards divinity. If his natural abilities had won him
the promise of any other elevation, it might not have
annoyed them so deeply. But this was something they
could not have been expected to bear, for not one
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 31
amongst them had a son a priest, although they believed
as iinplicity as Mrs. Brenuan in the virtue of religion,
and there was always a feeling of intense righteousness
upon them when they remembered her story.
Yet, although this was the way they looked upon him,
they were not without a certain cringing respect for the
realization he represented. Thus it was that when they
spoke to him there was a touch of deference in their
voices although there was a sneer in their hearts. It
could not be expected that he should see them as they
really were. Yet there were odd, great moments when
his larger vision enabled him to behold them moving
infinitesimaliy, in affright, beneath the shadow of the
Divine Hand. He possessed a certain gift of observa-
tion, but it was superficial and of little consequence to
his character for it flourished side by side with the large
charity of his heart.
One morning he encountered old Marse Prendergast
upon the road. She was gathering a few green sticks
from the hedge-rows. She seemed to be always looking
for the means of a fire, and, to John Brenrian, there
appeared something that touched him greatly in the
spectacle of this whining old woman, from whom the
spark of life was so quickly fading, having no comfort,
even on a summer day, but just to be sitting over a few
smoldering sticks, sucking at an old black pipe and
breaking out into occasional converse with herself. She
who had given birth to strong sons and lovely daughters
sitting here in her little cabin alone. Her clutch was
gone from her to America, to the streets, and to the
John Brennan felt the pity of her, although he did not
32 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
notice that the curtsey she gave him from the ditch was
an essential portion of her contempt for the son of Nan
Byrne (the cheek of him going 011 for to be a priest!),
or that when she addressed him as Mr. Brennan it was
"And glory be to God, sure we'll soon have to be call-
ing you Father Brennan ! ' ' she repeated, as if silently
marveling at the impossibility of the combination of
He saw her move to accompany him down the road,
her old back bent cruelly beneath the load of the
weighty, green branches. He was touched, for he was
not blind to the symbolism for which she stood, and of-
fered to carry the branches for her, and she, accepting
his offer, called down upon his head the blessing of
As they moved slowly along the road she recounted,
in snatches between her questions regarding his life at
college, all the intimate woes of her life. Her lamenta-
tions, as they drew near the cottage of Mrs. Brennan, at-
tracted the attention of his mother, who saw a sight
filling her eyes which cut her to the bone. She saw her
son John, her hope and pride, conversing with Marse
Prendergast, the long-tongued shuiler who tramped the
country with her stories and in quest of more stories
Marse Prendergast who knew her secret as no other
knew it, and who had so recently reminded her of that
knowledge. And he was carrying her sticks along the
public road in the full light of day. ... So powerful
was the hurt of her maternal feelings that she almost
fainted sitting there by her machine.
When John came into the room she looked so pale that
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 33
he fancied she must be ill. He inquired as to the causes
of her condition, but she only replied that she would try
to tell him when he had taken his breakfast.
As he was eating in silence she wondered what at all
she could say to him or how she would attempt to place
her view of things before him. This incident of the
morning might be taken as a direct foreshadowing of
what might happen if his foolish charity extended fur-
ther down the valley. She did not dare to imagine
what things he might be told or what stories might be
suggested to his mind by the talk of the neighbors. But
it was clearly her duty doubly to protect him from such
a possibility. She saw that he had finished his break-
"That was the quare thing you were doing just now,
John? It was the quarest thing at all, so it was."
"Queer, mother; what was?"
"Talking to old Marse Prendergast, son, and she only
a woman of the roads with a bad tongue on her."
"I only stopped talking with her, mother, so that I
might carry her sticks. She was not able. ' '
"And she used the fine opportunity, I'll warrant, to
drag information out of you and carry it all through the
valley. That's what she was at! That's what she was
There was a kind of mournful wail in Mrs. Brennan's*
tones as if she saw in John's action of the morning some
irretrievable distance placed between herself and him.
The people of the valley loomed ever great as an army
between her and the desire of her heart, and John had
just now, as it were, afforded an opening to the enemy.
He received a certain amount of hurt from her words,
34 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
for although he knew her only as his mother and a good
woman who was well nigh faultless in her practise of
the Christian religion, why was it .that this simple ac-
tion of his, with its slight touch of charity, was resented
by her? Yet he allowed her to proceed without ques-
tion, listening always with that high and fine attention
which must have been the attitude of Christ as He lis-
tened to His Mother in Galilee.
She painted a picture of the valley for his considera-
tion. She proceeded to do this with a great concern
moving her, for she was quick to perceive the change in
him since his last holidays. He was a man now, and it
was to his manhood condition she appealed. She be-
gan to tell him, with such a rush of words, the life-his-
tories of those around him. There was not a slight de-
tail she did not go to great pains to enlarge, no skeleton
she did not cause to jump from its cupboard and run
alive once more through the valley. She painted a new
portrait of every inhabitant in a way that amazed John,
who had not known of such things.
But over his first feelings of surprise came a great
realization of sadness. For this was his mother who was
speaking. Hitherto he had looked upon her as one un-
touched by the clayey villainies of earth, a patient and
very noble woman, with tired eyes and busy hands
rather fashioned to confer benedictions than waste them-
selves in labor. Now he was listening to one most subtly
different, to a woman who had been suddenly meta-
morphosed into the likeness of something primeval and
startling. And she was oh! so bitter.
Mrs. Brennan had no notion of the change that had
come upon her. To herself there still appeared no dif-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 35
ference in herself. She was doing all this for love of
her son John, as she had done much for love of him.
There fell a thick silence between them when she had
finished. The mother and the son were both exhausted,
he from listening to her and she from reading the pedi-
grees of every one to whom her mind could possibly ex-
tend, including Marse Prendergast, the shuiler, and the
Shannons, who were almost gentlemen like the Houli-
hans of Clonabroney.
John Brennan sighed as he said out of the innocence
of his heart :
"It is good, mother, that we are not as the rest of
Mrs. Brennan did not reply.
IN rural Ireland the ' ' bona-fide, " or rather mala-fide,
traveler constitutes a certain blasphemous aspect
in the celebration of the Sabbath. There are different
types of ' ' bona-fide, " whose characteristics may be said
to vary in direct proportion to their love and enthus-
iasm for porter. The worship of porter, when it has
attained the proportions of a perfect passion, is best
described as "the pursuit of porter in a can." It is
the cause of many drunken skirmishes with the law,
and it is interesting to observe such mistaken heroes in
the execution of their plans.
At a given signal a sudden descent is made upon a
pub. A series of whistles from sentries in various parts
of the village has announced the arrival of the propitious
moment. A big tin 'can is the only visible evidence of
their dark intention. One almost forgets its betraying
presence in the whirling moment of the brave deed.
Then the deed is done. By some extraordinary process
the can that was empty is found to be filled. It is the
miracle of the porter. . . . When the sergeant and his
colleagues come on the scene some hours later, an empty
can with slight traces of froth upon the sides, "like
beaded bubbles winking at the brim/' constitutes the
remaining flimsy evidence of the great thing that has
The mind of John Brennan was more or less foreign
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 37
to this aspect of life amongst the fields. He would be
the very last to realize that such were essential happen-
ings in the life of his native village of Garradrimna.
On his first Sunday at home he went walking, after sec-
ond Mass, through the green woods which were the west-
ern boundary of the village. His thoughts were dwell-
ing upon Father O'Keeffe's material interpretation of
the Gospel story. At last they eddied into rest as he
moved there along the bright path between the tall
trees, so quiet as with adoration.
When he came by that portion of the demesne wall,
which lay at the back of Brannagan's public-house, he
heard a scurrying of rabbits among the undergrowth.
In the sudden hush which followed he heard a familiar
voice raised in a tense whisper.
" Hurry, quick! quick! There's some one in black
coming up the path. It must be Sergeant McGoldrick.
The can! the can!"
His cheeks were suddenly flushed by a feeling of
shame, for it was his father who had spoken. He stood
behind a wide beech tree in mere confusion and not
that he desired to see what was going forward.
His father, Ned Brennan, bent down like an acrobat
across the demesne wall and took the can from some one
beneath. Then he ran down through the undergrowth,
the brown froth of the porter dashing out upon his
trousers, his quick eyes darting hither and thither like
those of a frightened animal. But he did not catch
sight of John, who saw him raise the can to his
It was a new experience for John Brennan to see his
father thus spending the Sabbath in this dark place in
38 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
the woods, while out in the young summer day spilled
and surged all the wonder of the world. ... A sort of
pity claimed possession of him as he took a different way
among the cathedral trees. . . . His father was the
queer man, queer surely, and moving lonely in his life.
He was not the intimate of his son nor of the woman
who was his son's mother. He had never seemed greatly
concerned to do things towards the respect and honor of
that woman. And yet John Brennan could not forget
that he was his father.
Just now another incident came to divert his mood.
He encountered an ancient dryad flitting through the
woods. This was Padna Padna, a famous character in
Garradrimna. For all his name was that of the great
apostle of his country, his affinities were pagan. Al-
though he was eighty, he got drunk every day and never
went to Mass. In his early days he had been the pro-
prietor of a little place and the owner of a hackney car.
When the posting business fell into decline, he had had
to sell the little place and the horse and car, and the
purchase money had been left for his support with a
distant relative in the village. He was a striking figure
as he moved abroad in the disguise of a cleric not alto-
gether devoted to the service of God. He always
dressed in solemn black, and his coat was longer than
that of a civilian. His great hat gave him a downcast
look, as of one who has peered into the Mysteries. His
face was wasted and small, and this, with his partially
blinded eyes behind the sixpenny spectacles, gave him
a certain asceticism of look. Yet it was the way he
carried himself rather than his general aspect which
created this impression of him. He was very small,
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 39
and shrinking daily. His eyes were always dwelling
upon his little boots in meditation. Were you unaware
of his real character, you might foolishly imagine that
he was thinking of high, immortal things, but he was
in reality thinking of drink.
This was his daily program. He got up early and,
on most mornings, crossed the street to Bartle Donohoe,
the village barber, for a shave. Bartle would be wait-
ing for him, his dark eye hanging critically as he tested
the razor edge against the skin of his thumb. The little
blade would be glinting in the sunlight. . . . Sometimes
Bartle would become possessed of the thought that the
morning might come when, after an unusually hard
carouse on the previous night, he would not be respon-
sible for all his razor might do, that it might suddenly
leap out of his shivering hand and make a shocking end
of Padna Padna and all his tyranny. . . . But his repu-
tation as the drunkard with the steadiest hand in Gar-
radrimna had to be maintained. If he did not shave
Padna Padna the fact would be published in every
"Bartle Donohoe was too shaky to shave me this
morning ; too shaky, I say. Ah, he 's going wrong, going
wrong ! And will ye tell me this now ? How is it that
if ye buy a clock, a little ordinary clock for a couple of
shillings, and give it an odd wind, it'll go right; but a
man, a great, clever man 11 go wrong no matter what
way ye strive for to manage him?"
If Bartle shaved him, Padna Padna would take his
barber over to Tommy Williams 's to give him a drink,
which was the only payment he ever expected. After
this, his first one, Padna Padna would say, "Not going
40 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
to drink any more to-day," to which Bartle Donohoe
would reply sententiously : "D'ye tell me so? Well,
well! Is that a fact?"
Then, directly, he would proceed to take a little walk
before his breakfast, calling at every house of entertain-
ment and referring distantly to the fact that Bartle
Donohoe had a shake in his hand this morning. "A
shame for him, and he an only son and all!"
And thus did he spend the days of his latter end, pac-
ing the sidewalks of Garradrimna, entering blindly into
pubs and discussing the habits of every one save himself.
He was great in the field of reminiscence.
"Be the Holy Farmer!" he would say, "but there's
no drinking nowadays tost what used to be longo.
There's no decent fellows, and that's a fact. Ah, they
were the decent fellows longo. You couldn't go driving
them a place but they'd all come home mad. And sure
I often didn't know where I'd be driving them, I'd be
that bloody drunk. Aye, decent fellows! Sure they're
all dead now through the power and the passion of
So this was the one whom John Brennan now encoun-
tered amid the green beauty of the woodland places.
To him Padna Padna was one of the immortals. Suc-
ceeding holiday after succeeding holiday had he met the
ancient man, fading surely but never wholly declining
or disappearing. The impulse which had prompted him
to speak to Marse Prendergast a few days previously
now made him say : * ' How are you, old man ? " to Padna
The venerable drunkard, by way of immediate reply,
tapped upon his lips with his fingers and then blew upon
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 4\
his fingers and whistled in cogitation. It was with hia
ears that he saw, and he possessed an amazing faculty
for distinguishing between the different voices of dif-
"John Brennan!" he at length exclaimed, in his high,
thin voice. "Is that John Brennan?"
"It is, the very one."
"And how are ye, John?"
"Very well, indeed, Padna. How are you?"
"Poorly only. Ah, John, this is the hard day on me
always, the Sunday. I declare to me God I detest Sun-
day. Here am I marching through the woods since
seven and I having no drink whatever. That cursed
Sergeant McGoldrick ! May he have a tongue upon him
some day the color of an ould brick and he in the seventh
cavern of Hell! Did ye see Ned?"
The sudden and tense question was not immediately
intelligible to John Brerman. There were so many of
the name about Garradrimna. Padna Padna pranced
impatiently as he waited for an answer.
"Ah, is it letting on you are that you don't know who
I mean, and you with your grand ecclesiastical learning
and all to that. 'Tis your own father, Ned Brennan,
that I mean. I was in a 'join' with him to get a can
out of Brannigan's. Mebbe you didn't see him any-
where down through the wood, for I have an idea that
he's going to swindle me. Did ye see him, I'm asking
Even still John did not reply, for something seemed
to have caught him by the throat and was robbing him
of the power of speech. The valley, with its vast malev-
olence of which his mother had so recently warned him,
42 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
was now driving him to say something which was not
"No, Padna, I did not see him!" he at last managed
to jerk out.
"Mebbe he didn't manage to get me drink for me
yet, and mebbe he did get it and is after drinking it
somewhere in the shadows of the trees where he couldn't
be seen. But what am I saying at all? Sure if he was
drinking it there before me, where you're standing, I
couldn't see him, me eyes is that bad. Isn't it the poor
and the hard case to be blinded to such an extent?"
John Brennan felt no pity, so horrible was the ex-
pression that now struggled into those dimming eyes.
He thought of a puzzling fact of his parentage. Why
was it that his mother had never been able to save his
father from the ways of degradation into which he had
fallen, the low companions, the destruction of the val-
ley; from all of which to even the smallest extent she
was now so anxious to save her son?
Padna Padna was still blowing upon his fingers and
"Now isn't it the poor and the hard case that there's
no decent fellows left in the world at all. To think
that I can meet never a one now, me that spent so much
of me life driving decent fellows, driving, driving.
John, do ye know what it is now? You're after putting
me in mind of Henry Shannon. He was the decentest
fellow! Many's the time I drove him down to your
grandmother's place when he wouldn't have a foot un-
der him to leave Garradrimna. That was when your
mother was a young girl, John. Hee, hee, hee!''
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 43
John could not divine the reasons for the old man's
glee, nor did he perceive that the mind of Padna Padna,
even in the darkening stages of its end, was being lit by
a horrible sneer at him and the very fact of his ex-
istence. Instead he grew to feel rather a stir of compas-
sion for this old man, with his shattered conception of
happiness such as it was, burning his mind with mem-
ories while he rode down so queerly to the grave.
As he moved away through the long, peaceful aisles
of the trees, his soul was filled with gray questioning
because of what he had just seen of his father and be-
cause of the distant connection of his mother with the
incident. Why was it at all that his mother had never
been able to save his father?
As he emerged from the last circle of the woods there
seemed to be a shadow falling low over the fields. He
went with no eagerness towards the house of his mother.
This was Sunday, and it was her custom to spend a large
portion of the Sabbath in speaking of her neighbors.
But she would never say anything about his father, even
though Ned Brennan would not be in the house.
JUST now there happened something of such unusual
importance in the valley that Mrs. Brennan be-
came excited about it. The assistant teacher of Tulla-
hanogue Girls' School, Miss Mary Jane 'Donovan, had
left, and a new assistant was coming in her stead. Miss
O 'Donovan had always given the making of her things
to Mrs. Brennan, so she spoke of her, now that she was
gone, as having been "a very nice girl." Just yet, of
course, she was not in a position to say as much about
the girl who was coming. But the entry of a new per-
son into the life of the valley was a great event! Such
new things could be said!
On Monday morning Mrs. Brennan called her son
into the sewing-room to describe the imminent nature
of the event. The sense of depression that had come
upon him during the previous day did not become
averted as he listened.
What an extraordinary mixture this woman who was
his mother now appeared before his eyes! And yet he
could not question her in any action or in any speech;
she was his mother, and so everything that fell from her
must be taken in a mood of noble and respectful accept-
ance. But she was without charity, and as he saw her
in this guise he was compelled to think of his father and
the incident of yesterday, and he could not help wonder-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 45
ing. He suddenly realized that what was happening
presently in this room was happening in every house
down the valley. Even before her coming she was being
condemned. It was beneath the shadow of this already
created cloud she would have to live and move and earn
her little living in the schoolhouse of Tullahanogue.
John Brennan began to have some pity for the girl.
Ned Brennan now appeared at the door leading to
the kitchen and beckoned to his wife. She went at his
calling, and John noticed that at her return some part
of her had fallen away. His father went from the house
whistling at a pitch that was touched with delight.
" Where is my father bound for?"
"He's gone to Garradrimna, John, to order lead for
the roof of the school. The valley behind the chimney
is leaking again and he has to cobble it. 'Tis the great
bother he gets with that roof, whatever sort it is. Isn't
it a wonder now that Father O'Keeffe wouldn't put a
new one on it, and all the money he gets so handy. . . ? "
"My father seems to be always at that roof. He used
to be at it when I was going to school there. "
The words of her son came to Mrs. Brennan 's ears
with a sound of sad complaint. It caused her to glimpse
momentarily all the villainy of Ned Brennan towards
her through all the years, and of how she had borne it
for the sake of John. And here was John before her
now becoming reverently magnified in that part of her
mind which was a melting tenderness. It was him she
must now save from the valley which had ruined her
man. Thus was she fearful again and the heart within
her caused to become troubled and to rush to and fro
in her breast like rushing water. Then, as if her whole
46 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
will was sped by some fearful ecstasy, she went on to
talk in her accustomed way of every one around her, in-
cluding the stranger who had not yet come to the val-
It was 011 the evening of this day that Rebecca Kerr.
the new assistant teacher, came through the village of
Garradrimna to the valley of Tullahanogue. Paddy
McCann drove McDennott's hackney car down past the
old castle of the De Lacys. It carried her as passenger
from Mullaghowen, with her battered trunk strapped
over the well. The group of spitting idlers crowding
around Brannagan's loudly asserted so much as Paddy
McCann and his cargo loomed out of the shadows be-
neath the old castle and swung into the amazing reali-
ties of the village. It was just past ten o'clock and
the mean place now lay amid the enclosing twilight.
The conjunctive thirsts for drink and gossip which come
at this hour had attacked the ejected topers, and their
tongues began to water about the morsel now placed
A new schoolmistress, well, well ! Didn't they change
them shocking often in Tullahanogue? And quare-
looking things they were too, every one of them. And
here was another one, not much to look at either. They
said this as she came past. And what was her name?
"Kerr is her name!" said some one who had heard it
from the very lips of Father O'Keeffe himself.
"Rebecca Kerr is her name," affirmed Farrell Mc-
Guinness, who had just left a letter for her at the Pres-
"Rebecca what? Kerr Kerr Kerr, is it?" sput-
tered Padna Padna; "what for wouldn't it be Carr now,
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 47
just common and simple? But of course Kerr has a
ring of the quality about it. Kerr, be God!"
These were the oracles of Garradrimna who were now
speaking of her thus. But she had no thought of them
at all as she glanced hurriedly at the shops and puzzled
her brains to guess where the best draper's shop might
be. She had a vague, wondering notion as to where she
might get all those little things so necessary for a girl.
She had a fleeting glimpse of herself standing outside
one of those worn counters she was very certain existed
somewhere in the village, talking ever so much talk with
the faded girl who dispensed the vanities of other days,
or else exchanging mild confidences with the vulgar and
ample mistress of the shop, who was sure to be always
floating about the place immensely. Yes, just there was
the very shop with its brave selection from the fashions
of yester-year in the fly-blown windows.
And there was the Post Office through which her let-
ters to link her with the outer world would come and
go. She quickly figured the old bespectacled postmis-
tress, already blinded partially, and bent from constant,
anxious scrutiny, poring exultantly over the first let-
ters that might be sent to "Miss Rebecca Kerr," and
examining the postmark. Then the quality and gender
of the writing, and being finally troubled exceedingly
as to the person it could have come from sister, mother,
brother, father, friend, or "boy." Even although the
tall candles of Romance had long since guttered and
gone out amid the ashes of her mind the assaulting
suspicion that it was from "a boy" would drive her to
turn the letter in her hand and take a look at the flap.
Then the temptation that was a part of her life would
48 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
prove too strong for her and a look of longing would
come into the dull eyes as she went hobbling into the
kitchen to place it over the boiling kettle and so em-
bark it upon its steamy voyage to discovery. In a few
minutes she would be reading it, her hands trembling
as she chuckled in her obscene glee at all the noble
sentiments it might contain. The subsequent return of
the letter to the envelope after the addition of some
gum from a penny bottle if the old sticking did not
suffice. Her interludiary sigh of satisfaction when she
remembered that one could re-stick so many opened en-
velopes with a penny bottle of gum by using it econom-
ically. The inevitable result of this examination, a su-
perior look of wisdom upon the withered face when the
new schoolmistress, Rebecca Kerr, came for the first
time into the office to ask for a letter from her
love. . . . But so far in her life she had formed no
It was thus arid thus that Rebecca Kerr ran through
her mind a few immediate sketchy realizations of this
village in Ireland. She had lived in others, and this
one could not be so very different. . . . There now was
the butcher 's stall, kept filthily, where she might buy her
bit of beef or mutton occasionally. She caught a
glimpse of the victualler standing with his dirty wife
amid the strong-smelling meat. The name above the
door was that of the publichouse immediately beside it.
A little further on, upon the same side, was the news-
agent's and stationer's, where they sold sweets and
everything. It was here she might buy her notepaper
to write to her own people in Donegal, or else to some
of her college friends with whom she still kept up a
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 49
eorrespondence. And here also she might treat herself,
on rare occasions, to a box of cheap chocolates, or to
some of the injurious, colored sweets which always gave
her the toothache, presenting the most of them, per-
haps, to some child to whom she had taken a fancy.
By little bits like these, which formed a series of
flashes, she saw some aspects of the life she might lead
here. Each separate flash left something of an impres-
sion before it went out of her mind.
The jingling car swung on past the various groups
upon the street, each group twisting its head as one man
to observe the spectacle of her passing. "That's the
new schoolmistress!" "There she is, begad!" "I
heard Paddy McCann saying she was coming this eve-
ning ! ' ' She was now in line with the famous house of
Tommy Williams, the gombeen-man. She knew from
the look of it that it was here she must buy her few
groceries, for this was the principal house in Garra-
drimna and, even so far as she, the octopus of Gom-
beenism was sure to extend itself. To be sure, the
gombeen-man would be the father of a family, for it
is the clear duty of such pillars of the community to
rear up a long string of patriots. If those children
happened to be of school-going age, it was certain they
would not be sent to even the most convenient school
unless the teachers dealt in the shop. This is how gom-
beenism is made to exercise control over National Ed-
ucation. Anyhow Rebecca Kerr was very certain that
she must enter the various-smelling shop to discuss the
children with the gombeen-man's wife.
It was indeed a dreary kind of life that she would be
compelled to lead in this place, and, as she passed the
50 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
pretty chapel, which seemed to stand up in the sight of
Heaven as excuse for the affront that was Garradrimna,
she had a strange notion how she must go there some-
times to find respite from the relentless crush of it all.
On bitter evenings, when her mind should ring with the
mean tumults of the life around her, it was there only
she might go and, slipping in through the dim vestibule
where there were many mortuary cards to remind her of
all the dead, she would walk quickly to the last pew and,
bending her throbbing head, pour out her soul in prayer
with the aid of her little mother-of-pearl rosary. . . .
They had gone a short distance past the chapel and
along the white road towards the valley.
"This is the place/' said Paddy McCann.
She got down from the car wearily, and McCann
carried her battered trunk into the house of Sergeant
McGoldrick which had been assigned as her lodging by
Father O'Keeffe. He emerged with a leer of expecta-
tion upon his countenance, and she gave him a shilling
from her little possessions. At the door she was com-
pelled to introduce herself.
"So you are the new teacher. Well, begad! The
missus is up in the village. Come in. Begad!"
He stood there, a big, ungainly man, at his own door
as he gave the invitation, a squalling baby in his arms,
and in went Rebecca Kerr, into the sitting-room where
Mrs. McGoldrick made clothes for the children. The
sergeant proceeded to do his best to be entertaining.
She knew the tribe. He remained smoking his great
black pipe and punctuated the squalls of the baby by
spitting huge volumes of saliva which hit the fender
with dull thuds,
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 51
"It's a grand evening in the country," said Sergeant
"Yes, a nice evening surely," said Rebecca Kerr.
"Oh, it was a grand, lovely day in the country, the
day. I was out in the country all through the day. I
was collecting the census of the crops, so I was; a
difficult and a critical job, I can tell you ! ' '
With an air of pride he took down the books of lists
and showed her the columns of names and particu-
lars. ... It was stupidly simple. Yet here was this
hulk of a man expanding his chest because of his child-
ish achievement. He had even stopped smoking and
spitting to give space to his own amazement, and the
baby had ceased mewling to marvel in infantile wonder
at the spacious cleverness of her da.
After nearly half an hour of this performance Mrs.
McGoldrick bustled into the room. She was a coarse-
looking woman, whose manner had evidently been made
even more harsh by the severe segregation to which the
wives of policemen are subjected. Her voice was loud
and unmusical, and it appeared to Rebecca from the
very first that not even the appalling cleverness of her
husband was a barrier to her strong government of her
own house. The sergeant disappeared immediately,
taking the baby with him, and left the women .to their
own company. Mrs. McGoldrick had seen the battered,
many-corded trunk in the hall-way, and she now made
a remark which was, perhaps, natural enough for a
"You haven't much luggage anyway!" was what she
: No!" replied Rebecca dully.
52 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Then she allowed her head to droop for what seemed
a long while, during all of which she was acutely con-
scious that the woman by her side was staring at her,
forming impressions of her, summing her up.
fi l don't think you're as tall as Miss O 'Donovan was,
and you haven't as nice hair!"
Rebecca made no comment of any kind upon this
candor, but now that the way had been opened Mrs.
McGoldrick poured out a flood of information regarding
the late assistant of the valley school. She was reduced
to little pieces and, as it were, cremated in the furnace
of this woman's mind until tiny specks of the ashes of
her floated about and danced and scintillated before the
tired eyes of Rebecca Kerr.
As the heavier dusk of the short, warm night began to
creep into the little room her soul sank slowly lower.
She was hungry now and lonely. In the mildest way
she distantly suggested a cup of tea, but Mrs. Mc-
Goldrick at once resented this uncalled-for disturbance
of her harangue by bringing out what was probably
meant to be taken as the one admirable point in the
other girl's character.
"Miss 'Donovan used always get her own tea."
But the desolating silence of Rebecca at length drove
her towards the kitchen, and she returned, after what
seemed an endless period, with some greasy-looking
bread, a cup without a handle, and a teapot from which
the tea dribbled in agony on to the tablecloth through
a wound in its side.
The sickening taste of the stuff that came out of the
teapot only added to Rebecca's sinking feeling. Her
thoughts crept ever downward. ... At last there came
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 53
a blessed desire for sleep sleep and forgetfulness of
this day and the morrow. Her head was already begin-
ning to spin as she inquired for her room.
"Your room?" exclaimed Mrs. McGoldrick in harsh
surprise. "Why, 'tis upstairs. There's only two
rooms there, myself and the sergeant's and the lodger's
room that's yours. I hadn't time this week back to
make the bed since Miss 'Donovan left, but of course
you'll do that for yourself. The sergeant is gone up to
the barracks, so I '11 have to help you carry up your box,
as I suppose you'll be wanting to get out some of your
It was a cruelly hard job getting the trunk up the
steep staircase, but between them they managed it. Re-
becca was not disappointed by the bare, ugly room.
Mrs. McGoldrick closed the door behind them and stood
in an attitude of expectation. Even in the present dull
state of her mind Rebecca saw that her landlady was,
with tense curiosity, awaiting the opening of the box
which held her poor belongings. . . . Then something
of the combative, selfish attitude of the woman to her
kind stirred within her, and she bravely resolved to
fight, for a short space, this prying woman who was try-
ing to torment her soul.
She looked at the untidied bed with the well-used
sheets. . . . What matter? It was only the place
whereon the body of another poor tortured creature like
herself had lain. She would bear with this outrage
against her natural delicacy.
In perfect silence she took off her skirt and blouse
and corset. She let fall her long, heavy hair and, be-
foi-e the broken looking-glass, began to dally wearily
54 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
with its luxuriance. This hair was very fair and price-
less, and it was hers who had not great possessions. -Her
shining neck and blossomy breasts showed as a pattern
in ivory against the background that it made. . . . Some
man, she thought, would like to see her now and love
her maybe. Beyond this vision of herself she could see
the ugly, anxious face of the woman behind her. She
could feel the discord of that woman's thoughts with
the wandering strands of withering hair.
No word had passed between them since they came
together into the room, and Mrs. McGoldrick, retreating
from the situation which had been created, left with
abruptness, closing the door loudly behind her.
With as much haste as she could summon, Rebecca
took off her shoes and got her night-gown out of the
trunk. Then she threw herself into the bed. She put
out the light and fumbled in her faded vanity bag for
her little mother-of-pearl rosary. There was a strange
excitement upon her, even in the final moments of her
escape, and soon a portion of her pillow was wet with
tears. Between loud sobs arose the sound of her prayers
"Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus. . . . Hail, Mary, full of grace, the
Lord is with thee; blessed art thou . . . Hail, Mary,
full of grace. . . ."
AT tea-time Mrs. Brennan was still talking to John
of the girl who was coming to the valley. Out-
side the day was still full of the calm glory of summer.
He went to the window and looked down upon the clean,
blue stretch of the little lake. ... He had grown weary
of his mother's talk. What possible interest could he
have in this unknown girl? He took a book from a
parcel on the table. With this volume in his hand and
reading it, as he might his breviary at some future
time, he went out and down towards the lake. On his
way he met a few men moving to and from their tasks
in the fields. He bade them the time of day and spoke
about the beauty of the afternoon. As they replied a
curious kind of smile played around their lips, and
there was not one who failed to notice his enviable con-
dition of idleness.
"Indeed 'tis you that has the fine times!" "Indeed
you might say 'tis you that has the fine times!" "Now
isn't the learning the grand thing, to say that when you
have it in your head you need never do a turn with
your hands ? ' '
Their petty comments had the effect of filling him
with a distracting sense of irritation, and it was some
time before he could pick up any continued interest in
the book. It was the story of a young priest, such as
be might expect to be in a few years. Suddenly it ap-
56 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
peared remarkable that he should be reading this fore-
shadowing of his future. That he should be seeing him-
self with all his ideas translated into reality and his
training changed into the work for which he had been
trained. Strange that this thought should have come
into his mind with smashing force here now and at this
very time. Hitherto his future had appeared as a thing
apart from him, but now it seemed intimately bound up
with everything he could possibly do.
He began to see very clearly for the first time the
reason for his mother's anxiety to keep him apart from
the life of the valley. Did it spring directly from her
love for him, or was it merely selfish and contributory
to her pride? The whole burden of her talk showed
clearly that she was a proud woman. He could never
come to have her way of looking at things, and so he
now felt that if he became a priest it was she and not
himself who would have triumphed. . . . He was still
reading the book, but it was in a confused way and with
little attention. The threads of the story had become
entangled somehow with the threads of his own story.
. . . Occasionally his own personality would cease to
dominate it, and the lonely woman in the cottage, his
mother sitting in silence at her machine, would become
the principal character. . . . The hours went past him
as he pondered.
The evening shadows had begun to steal down from
the hills. The western sky was like the color of a golden
chalice. Men were coming home weary from the labor
of the fields ; cows were moving towards field gates with
wise looks in their eyes to await the milking; the young
calves were lowing for their evening meal. The quiet
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 57
fir trees, which had slept all through the day, now
seemed to think of some forgotten trust and were like
vigilant sentries all down through the valley of Tulla-
Suddenly the eyes of John Brennan were held by a
splendid picture. The sweep of the Hill of Annus lay
outlined in all the wonder of its curve, and, on the ridge
of it, moving with humped body, was Shamesy Golliher,
the most famous drunkard of the valley. He passed
like a figure of destruction above the valley against the
sunset. John smiled, for he remembered him and his
habits, as both were known far and wide. He was now
going towards a certain wood where the rabbits were
plentiful. His snares were set there. The thin, pitiful
cry of the entrapped creature now split the stillness,
and the man upon the sweep of the world began to
move with a more determined stride. . . . John Bren-
nan, his mind quickening towards remembrance of in-
cidents of his boyhood, knew that the cunning of
Shamesy Golliher had triumphed over the cunning of
the rabbits. Their hot little eager bodies must soon be
sold for eightpence apiece and the money spent on por-
ter in Garradrimna. It was strange to think of this
being the ultimate fate of the rabbits that had once
frisked so innocently over the green spaces of the woods.
. . . He listened, with a slight turn of regret stirring
him, until the last squeal had been absorbed by the still-
ness. Then he arose and prepared to move away from
the lake. He was being filled by a deadly feeling of
sadness. Hitherto the continuous adventure of adoles-
cence had sustained him, but now he was a man and
thinking of his future.
58 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
On his way across the sweep of the hill he encountered
Shamesy Golliher. The famous drunkard was laden
with the rabbits he had just taken from the snares.
The strength of his thirst had also begun to attack him,
so that by reason of both defects his legs now bent un-
der him weakly as he walked. Yet his attitude did not
suggest defeat, for he had never failed to maintain his
reputation in the valley. He was the local bard, the
satiric poet of the neighborhood. He was the only in-
habitant of the valley who continually did what he
pleased, for he throve within the traditional Gaelic
dread of satire. No matter how he debased himself no
man or woman dared talk of it for fear they might be
made the subject of a song to be ranted in the tap-
rooms of Garradrimna. And he was not one to respect
the feelings of those whom he put into his rimes, for
all of them were conceived in a mood of ribald and
"Me sound man John, how are ye?" he said, extend-
ing a white, nervous hand.
"I'm very well, thanks; and how are you, Shamesy?"
"Ah, just only middling. I don't look the very best
You'll excuse me not being shaved. But that's on ac-
count of the neuralgia. God blast it! it has me near
killed. It has the nerves destroyed on me. Look at
me hand." ... It was the idiosyncrasy of Shamesy
Golliher to assert that drink was no part of his life.
Immediately he dropped into his accustomed vein.
He gazed down the Hill of Annus and found material
for his tongue. There were the daughters of Hughie
Murtagh. They had no brother, and were helping their
father in the fields.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 59
" Them's the men, them's the men!" said Shamesy,
11 though glory be to God! 'twill be the hard case with
them when they come to be married, for sure you
wouldn't like to marry a man, now would you? And
for pity's sake will you look at Oweneen Kiernan, the
glutton ! I hear he ate five loaves at the ball in Ballina-
mult; and as sure as you're there that powerful re-
past '11 have to be made the material for a song."
A loud laugh sprang from the lips of Shamesy
Golliher and floated far across the lake, and John Bren-
nan was immediately surprised to find himself laughing
in the same way.
The rimer was still pursuing Oweneen down the field
of his mind.
"Aye, and I thank ye, ye '11 see him doing his best
after the new schoolmistress that's coming to us this
evening. There's a great look-out, I can tell you, to
see what kind she'll be. Indeed the last one wasn't
much. Grand-looking whipsters, moryah! to be teach-
ing the young idea. Indeed I wouldn't be at all sur-
prised to see one of them going away from here some-
time and she in the family way, although may God
pardon me for alluding to the like and I standing in
the presence of the makings of a priest!"
John Brennan felt himself blushing ever so slightly.
"And who d'ye think was in Garradrimna this even-
ing? Why Ulick Shannon, and he a big man. Down
to stop with his uncle Myles he is for a holiday. He
wasn't here since he was a weeshy gosoon; for, what
d'ye think, didn't his mother and father send him away
to Dublin to be nursed soon after he was born and never
seemed to care much about him afterwards; but they
60 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
were the quare pair, and it was no good end that hap-
pened to themselves, for Henry Shannon and the girl he
married, Grace Gogarty, both died within the one year.
He in the full pride of his red life, and she while she
was gallivanting about the country wearing mourning
for him and looking for another husband that she never
got before she went into the clay. Well, to make a long
story short, Myles Shannon looked after the orphan,
paying for his rearing and his education, and having
him live as a gentleman in Dublin until now he's a
great-looking fellow entirely, and going on, I suppose,
for Doctoring, or the Law, or some other profitable
devilment like that. The Shannons were always an
unlucky family, but maybe Ulickll break the black
curse, although I don't know, for he's the very spit and
image of his father and able to take his drink like a
good one, I can tell ye. This evening he came into Mc-
Dermott's. There was no one there but meself, it being
the high evening, so says he to me :
" ' Begad, Mr. Shannon,' says I, '111 have a pint.
And more power to ye, sir!' says I, although I was
grinning to meself all the time, for I couldn't help
thinking that he was only the son of Henry Shannon,
one of the commonest blackguards that ever disgraced
this part of the country. You didn't know him, but
your mother could tell you about him. You might
swear your mother could tell you about him ! ' '
John Brennan did not notice the light of merriment
which overspread the face of Shamesy Golliher, for he
was looking down towards the hush of the lake, and ex-
periencing a certain feeling of annoyance that this
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 61
young man should be becoming gradually introduced
to him in this way. But iShainesy was still speaking:
' * He stood me four pints and two glasses, and nothing
would do him when he was going away but he should
buy me a whole glass of whiskey. He 's what you might
call a gay fellow, I can tell you. And God save us!
isn't it grand to be that way, even though you never
earned it, and not have to be getting your drink like
me be nice contriving among the small game of the
They parted in silence, Shamesy Golliher going east-
ward towards Garradrimna and John Brennan in the
opposite direction and towards his mother's house. His
mind had begun to slip into a condition of vacancy when
an accident happened to turn it again in the direction
of religion. As he came out upon the road he passed
a group of children playing between two neighboring
houses. The group was made up of the children of
two families, the O'Briens and the Vaughans. It was
said of Mrs. Vaughan that although she had been mar-
ried by Father 'Keeffe, and went to Mass every second
Sunday, she still clung to the religion into which she
had been born. Now her eldest child, a pretty, fair-
haired boy, was in the midst of the O'Briens' children.
Their mother was what you might call a good woman,
for, although she had the most slovenly house along
the valley road, she went to Mass as often as Mrs. Bren-
nan. They were making the innocent child repeat
phrases out of their prayers and then laughing and
mocking him because he could not properly pronounce
the long words. They were trying to make him bless
himself, but the hands of little Edward could not mas-
62 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
ter the gestures of the formula, and they were jeering
at him for his ill-success. When he seemed just upon
the verge of tears they began to ask him questions in
the answers to which he would seem to have been well
trained aforetime, for he repeated them with glibness
"What religion are ye?"
"I'm a little black Protestant."
"And where will ye go when ye die?"
"I'll go to hell."
"A big place bigger than the chapel or the church,
with a terrible, grand fire in it."
"And what is it full of?"
"Its full of little fellows like me!"
This was the melancholy piece of catechism John
Brennan was constrained to hear as he went past.
It added the last wave of sadness to the gray mood
which had been descending upon him by degrees since
the beginning of the day. . . . He stood upon the road
and listened for anything in the nature of a sound which
might connect his mind with a thought that had some
brightness. Although only a few days had elapsed
since his return his ears were already beginning to re-
develop that delicate perception of slight sounds which
comes to one in the quiet places. He now heard a car
come through Garradrimna and move a short distance
down the valley road. That, he thought, should be
Paddy McCann driving the new mistress to her lodging
in the house of Sergeant McGoldrick.
The small realization held occupation of his mind as
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 63
he went into the house of his mother. He was surprised
to find that it was past ten. Still lonely as he went to
his room, he thought once more of the kind invitation
of Mr. Myles Shannon.
MYLES SHANNON had ever borne a passionate
grudge against Mrs. Brennan. He had loved
his brother Henry, and he felt that she, of all people,
had had the most powerful hand in instituting the re-
morse which had hurried him to his doom. Mrs. Bren-
nan, on the other hand, believed firmly that Henry
Shannon would have married her, and made of her a
decent woman, but for the intervention of his brother
Myles. Furthermore, she believed darkly in her heart
that the subtle plan of the disastrous " honeymoon" had
originated in the brain of Myles, although in this she
was wrong. She thought of Henry as being never of
that sort. He was wild and mad, with nothing too
hot or too heavy for him, but he was not one to concoct
schemes. So, when Henry died, Mrs. Brennan had
thought well to transmit her hatred of the Shannon
family to his brother Myles.
Myles Shannon lived a quiet life there in his big
house among the trees upon the side of Scarden, one of
the hills which overlooked the valley. In lonely, silent
moments he often thought of his brother Henry and of
the strange manner in which he had burned out his
life. With the end of his brother before him always
as a deterrent example, he did not interest himself in
women. He interested himself in the business of his
cattle and sheep all through each and every day of the
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 65
year. He did not feel the years slipping past him as
he went about his easy, contented life, watching, with
great interest, his beef and mutton grow up in the fields.
The cattle in particular stood for the absorbing in-
terest and the one excitement of his life. He looked
upon his goings and comings to and from the markets
at Dublin and at Wakefield in England as holiday ex-
cursions of great enjoyment.
It was during one of his trips to England that he had
met Helena Cooper at some hotel in Manchester. He
was one to whom the powers of Romance had remained
strangers, yet now, when they at last came into his life,
it was with a force that carried away all the protection
of his mind. He wanted some one to fill the loneliness
of the big house on Scarden Hill, and so he set his heart
upon Helena Cooper.
He returned to the valley a different man. Quite
suddenly he began to have a greater interest in his ap-
pearance, and it was noticed that he grew sentimental
and became easy in his dealings. It began to be whis-
pered around that, even so late in life, almost at the
close of the middle period which surely marks the end
of a man's prime, Myles Shannon had fallen in love
and was about to be married.
It was a notable rumor, and although it was fifteen
years since the death of Henry Shannon, Mrs. Brennan,
as one having a good reason to be interested in the
affairs of the Shannon family, became excited.
''Indeed it was high time for him to think of it," she
said to a neighbor one Sunday morning, "before he
turned into a real ould blackguard of a bachelor and
who d'ye say the girl is?"
66 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"Why, then, they say she's an English lady, and that
she's grand and young 1 . "
Mrs. Brennan was a great one for " ferreting-out "
things. Once she had set her mind upon knowing a
thing, there was little possibility of preventing her.
And now she was most anxious to know whom Myles
Shannon was about to marry. So when she saw the old
bent postmistress taking the air upon the valley road
later on in the day she brought her into the sewing-room
and, over a cup of tea, proceeded to satisfy her curiosity.
" There must be letters?" she said after they had
come round to a discussion of the rumored marriage.
"Oh, yes, indeed. There's letters coming and going,
coming and going," the old lady wheezed. "A nice-
looking ould codger, isn't he, to be writing letters to a
"And how d'ye know she's young?"
"How do I know, is it, how do I know? Well, well,
isn't that my business? To know and to mind."
"You're a great woman. 5 '
"I do my duty, that's all, Mrs. Brennan, as sure as
you're there. And d'ye imagine for a moment I was
going to let Myles Shannon pass, for all he's such a
great swank of a farmer? She is a young girl."
"There's no reason to misdoubt me in the least, for
I saw her photo and it coming through the post."
"A big, enlarged photo, I suppose?"
"Aye, the photo of a young girl in her bloom/ '
"I suppose she's very nice?"
"She's lovely, and 'tis what I said to myself as I
looked upon her face, that it would be the pity of the
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 67
world to see her married to a middling ould fellow like
"And I suppose, now, that she has a nice name?"
''Aye. It is that. And what you might call a grand
name. ' '
A long pause now fell between the two women, as if
both were endeavoring to form in their minds some
great resolve to which their hearts were prompting
them. The old postmistress delivered her next speech
in a whisper:
"Her name is Helena Cooper, and her address is 15
Medway Avenue, Manchester!"
The two women now nudged one another in simultan-
eous delight. Mrs. Brennan ran the direction over and
over in her mind as if suddenly fearful that some dread-
ful stroke of forgetfulness might come to overthrow
her chance of revenge upon her false, dead lover
through the great injury she now contemplated doing
to his brother. . . . She made an excuse of going to the
kitchen to put more water upon the teapot and, when
she went there, scribbled the name and address upon
the wall beside the fireplace.
When she returned to the sewing-room the old post-
mistress was using her handkerchief to hide the smile
of satisfaction which was dancing around her mouth.
She knew what was just presently running through Mrs.
Brennan 's mind, and she was glad and thankful that
she herself was about to be saved the trouble of writing
to Miss Cooper. . . . Her hand was beginning to be
quavery and incapable of writing a hard, vindictive
letter. Besides that Mr. Shannon was an influential
man in the district, and the Post Office was not above
68 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
suspicion. She was thankful to Mrs. Brennan now,
and said the tea was nice, very nice.
Yet, immediately that the information, for which she
had hungered since the rumor of Myles Shannon's
marriage began to go the rounds, was in her keeping,
Mrs. Brennan ceased to display any unusual interest
in the old, bespectacled maid. Nor did the postmistress
continue to be excited by the friendly presence of Mrs.
Brennan, for she, on her part, was immensely pleased
and considered that the afternoon had attained to a re-
markable degree of success. . . . From what she had
read of her productions passing through the post, she
knew that Mrs. Brennan was the woman could write the
strong, poisonous letter. Besides, who had a better
right to be writing it about one of the Shannon fam-
Soon she was going out the door and down the white
road towards Garradrimna. . . . Now wasn't Mrs.
Brennan the anxious and the prompt woman ; she would
be writing to Miss Cooper this very evening? ... As
she went she met young couples on bicycles passing to
distant places through the fragrant evening. The
glamor of Romance seemed to hang around them.
"Now isn't that the quare way for them to be spend-
ing the Sabbath?" she said to herself as she hobbled
The Angelus was just beginning to ring out across
the waving fields with its sweet, clear sound as Mrs.
Brennan regained the sewing-room after having seen
her visitor to the door, but, good woman though she was,
she did not stop to answer its holy summons. Her mind
was driving her relentlessly towards the achievement of
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 69
her intention. The pen was already in her hand, and
she was beginning to scratch out "a full account," as
she termed it, of Mr. Myles Shannon for the benefit of
Miss Helena Cooper, whoever she might be. Through
page after page she continued her attack while the fire
of her hate was still burning brightly through her will.
It had been her immemorial custom to send full ac-
counts abroad whenever one of the valley dwellers made
attempts at assertion, but not one of the Shannons had
so far offered her such a golden opportunity. For the
moment she was in her glory.
She announced herself as a good friend of this girl,
whose name she had only heard just now. She wrote
that she would not like to see Miss Cooper deceived by
a man she had no opportunity of knowing in his real
character, such as Mr. Shannon.
Now it was a fact that Myles, unlike his brother
Henry, had not been a notable antagonist of the Com-
mandments. It was true, of course, that he was not
distinguished for the purity of his ways when he went
adventuring about the bye-ways of Dublin after a day
at the cattle market, and people from the valley, crop-
ping up most unexpectedly, had witnessed some of his
exploits and had sent magnified stories winging afar.
But he had ruined no girl, and was even admirable in
his habits when at home in his lonely house among the
This, however, was not the Mr. Shannon that Mrs.
Brennan set down in her letter to Helena Cooper. It
was rather the portrait of his brother Henry, the wild
libertine, that she painted, for, in the high moments
of her hate, she was as one blinded by the ecstasy that
70 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
had come upon her. The name of Shannon held for her
only one significance, and, for the moment, it was an
abysmal vision which dazzled her eyes.
Soon there came a communication from Miss Cooper
to Mr. Shannon which had the effect of nipping his
green romance while it was still young. ... It asked
him was this true and was that true? . . . The easy,
sentimental way he had looked upon the matter was
suddenly kindled into a deeper feeling, and he thought
of having the girl now at all costs. ... He wrote a
fine reply in justification. It was a clear, straight piece
of writing, and, although it pained him greatly, he was
compelled to admit that the statements about which
Miss Cooper wished to be satisfied were no more than
the truth in relation to a certain member of the Shan-
non family. But they related to his dead brother
Henry and not to him. ... He prayed the forgiveness
of forgetfulness for the dead. . . . He volunteered the
production of convincing proof for every statement here
made in regard to himself.
But the old lady at the Post Office had something to
say in the matter. She had read Miss Cooper's letter,
and as she now read the letter of Mr. Shannon she knew
that should it reach her this girl must be fully satisfied
as to his character, for his was a fine piece of plead-
ing. . . . But she could not let Mrs. Breniian have all
the secret satisfaction for the destruction of his love-
affair. The bitter woman in the valley had done the
ugly, obvious part of the work, but she was in a position
to hurry it to secret, deadly completion. ... So that
evening the letter, which it had given Myles Shannon
such torture to write, was burned at the fire in the
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 71
kitchen behind the Post Office. ... He wrote to Helena
Cooper again and yet again, but the same thing hap-
pened. . . . His third letter had turned purely pathetic
in its tone. The old lady said to herself that it made
her laugh like anything.
At last he fell to considering that her affection for
him could not have been very deep seeing that she had
allowed it to be so strongly influenced by some poison-
ous letter from an anonymous enemy. . . . Yet there
were moments when he knew that he could never for-
get her nor escape, through all the years he might live,
from the grand dream her first tenderness had raised
up in his heart. In its immediate aspect he was a little
angry that the rumor of a contemplated marriage on
his part should have gone abroad. But he had almost
triumphed over this slight feeling of annoyance when
there came to him, some month later, the ' * account ' ' that
had been written about him to Miss Cooper without a
word of comment enclosed. . . . The old lady at the
office had seen to that, for the letter accompanying it
as far as Garradrimna had gone the way of Mr. Shan-
non's letters. . . . This had made her laugh also with
its note of wonder as to why he had made no attempt
to explain. ... If only he would say that the state-
ments made against him were all mere lies. Of course
she did not believe a word of them, but she wished him
to say so in a letter to her. . . . The Post Office was
saved from suspicion by this second bit of destruction,
although it had done its work well.
The bare, scurrilous note caused a blaze of indigna-
tion turning to hatred to take possession of his soul
which had hitherto been largely distinguished by kindly
72 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
influences. He had his suspicions at once that it was
the work of Mrs. Brennan.
There was a letter of hers locked in a bureau in the
parlor with other things which had been the property
of his dead brother Henry. They were all sad things
which related intimately to the queer life he had led.
This old faded letter from Nan Byrne was the one she
had written asking him for Christ's sake to niarry her,
now that she felt her misfortune coming upon her. . . .
A hard look came into his eyes as he began to compare
the weak handwriting. Yes, it was hers surely, be-
yond a shadow of doubt. . . . He locked this thing
which had so changed the course of his life with the
things of his brother.
It was queer, he thought, that she, of all people, who
should be prone to silence, had thought fit, after the
passage of so many years, to meddle with dead things
in the hope of ending other dreams which, until now,
had lived brightly. He continued to brood himself
into bitter determinations. He resolved that, as no
other girl had come greatly into his life before the com-
ing of Helena Cooper, no other one must enter now that
she was gone. She was gone, and must the final dis-
aster of his affections narrow down to a mere piece of
sentimental renunciation? Strange, contradictory at-
titudes built themselves up in his mind.
Out of his brooding there grew before him the struc-
ture of a plan. This woman had besmirched his
brother, helping him towards the destruction of his life,
for it was in this light, as a brother, he had viewed the
matter always; and now, in her attempt to besmirch
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 73
himself, she had spoiled his dream. He had grown
angry after the slow fashion which was the way of his
thought, but his resolve was now sure and deliberate.
There was her son! He had just gone to some kind
of college in England to prepare for the priesthood, and
the antecedents of a priest must be without blemish.
It was not the youth's fault, but his mother was Nan
Byrne, and some one must pay. . . . And why should
she desire to bring punishment of any kind upon him
for his brother's sin with her? He had loved his
brother, and it was only natural to think that she loved
her son. And through that love might come the deso-
lation of her heart. To allow the blossom to brighten
in her eye and then, suddenly, to wither it at a blast.
To permit this John Brennan to approach the sacred
portals of the priesthood and then to cause him to be
The thought of how he might put a more delicate
turn to the execution of his plan had come to him as he
journeyed down from Dublin with John Brennan. He
knew that his nephew, Ulick, had lived the rather reck-
less student life of Dublin. Just recently he had been
drawing him out. But he was no weakling, and it was
not possible that any of those ways might yet submerge
him. However, his influence acting upon a weaker
mind might have effect and produce again the degener-
ate that had not fully leaped to life in him. If he were
brought into contact with John Breunan it might be
the means of effecting, in a less direct way, the result
which must be obtained.
It was with this thought simmering in his brain that
74 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Myles Shannon had invited John Brennan to the friend-
ship and company of his nephew. When he had spoken
of the Great War it was the condition of his own mind
that had prompted the thought, for it was filled with
the impulse of destruction.
IT is on his passage through the village of Garra-
drimna that we may most truly observe John Bren-
nan, in sharp contrast with his dingy environment, as
he goes to hear morning Mass at the instigation of his
mother, whose pathetic fancy fails to picture him in any
other connection. It is a beautiful morning, and the
sun is already high. There is a clean freshness upon
all things. The tall trees which form a redeeming
background for the uneven line of the ugly houses on
the western side of the street are flinging their rich
raiment wildly upon the light breeze where it floats like
the decorative garments of a ballet dancer. The light
winds are whipping the lightness of the morning.
The men of drink are already stirring about in an-
ticipation. Hubert Manning is striking upon the door
of Flynn's, the grocery establishment, which, in the
heavy blindness of his thirst, he takes to be one of the
seven publichouses of Garradrimna. He is running
about like some purged sinner, losing patience at last
hard by the Gate of Heaven. In the course of her in-
clusive chronicles his mother had told John Brennan
the life history of Hubert Manning. For sixty odd
years he had bent his body in hard battle with the clay,
until the doubtful benefit of a legacy had come to change
the current of his life. The fortune, with its sudden
diversion towards idleness and enjoyment, had caused
76 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
all the latent villainy of the man, which the soil had
subdued, to burst forth with violence. He was now a
drunken old cur whom Sergeant McGoldrick caused to
spend a fortune in fines.
"Just imagine the people who do be left the money!"
said Mrs. Brennan, as she told the story.
John Brennan passes on. He meets the bill-poster,
Thomas James. His dark, red face displays an im-
mense anxiety. He is going for his first pint with a
pinch of salt held most carefully in his hand. His pres-
ent condition is a fact to be deplored, for he was famous
in his time and held the record in Garradrimria for fast
drinking of a pint. He could drink twenty pints in
a day. Hence his decline and the pinch of salt now
held so carefully in his hand. This is to keep down
the first pint, and if the operation be safely effected it
is quite possible that the other nineteen will give him
Coming in the valley road are Shamesy Golliher and
Martin Cormell. In the distance they appear as small,
shrinking figures, moving in abasement beneath the
Gothic arches of the elms. They represent the advance
guard of those who leave the sunlit fields on a summer
morning to come into the dark, cavernous pubs of
On the side of the street, distant from that upon
which John Brennan is walking, moves the famous fig-
ure of Padna Padna, slipping along like some spirit of
discontent and immortal longing, doomed forever to
wander. He mistakes the student for one of the priests
and salutes him by tipping his great hat lightly with
his little fore-finger.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 77
And here comes yet another, this one with speed and
determination in his stride, for it is Anthony Shaugh-
ness, who has spent three-fourths of his life running
away from Death.
"Will you save a life; will you save a life?" he
whispers wildly, clutching John by the arm. "I have
a penny, but sure a penny is no good, sir; and I want
tuppence-ha'penny to add to it for the price of a pint;
but sure you won't mind when it's to save my life! I
know you'll give it to me for the love of God!"
This is a very well-known request in the mouth of
Anthony Shaughness, and John Brennan has attended
it so very often during the past few years as to deserve
a medal for life-saving. Yet he now takes the coppers
from his small store of pocket-money and gives them to
the dipsomaniac, who moves rapidly in the direction of
1 'The World's End."
There is presently an exciting interlude. They are
just opening up at Brannagan's as he goes past. The
sleepy-looking barmaid has come to the newly-opened
door, and makes an ungraceful gesture in gathering up
her ugly dishevelled hair. A lout of a lad with a dirty
cigarette in his mouth appears suddenly. They begin
to grin at one another in foolish rapture, for it is a
lovers' meeting. Through the doorway at which they
stand the smell of stale porter is already assaulting the
freshness of the morning. They enter the bar surrep-
titiously and John Brennan can hear the swish of a
pint in the glass in which it is being filled. The usual
morning gift, he thinks, with which this maiden favors
this gallant lover of a new Romance. . . . There comes
to him suddenly the idea that his name has been men-
78 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
tioned in this dark place just now. . . . He goes on
Walking quickly towards the chapel.
The plan which Myles Shannon had originated was
not lacking in subtlety. He foresaw a certain clash of
character, between his nephew and the son of Nan
Byrne, which must become most interesting as he
watched it out of his malevolence. He could never,
never, forget what she had done. . . . And always, be-
yond the desolation which appeared from concentra-
tion of his revengeful intentions, he beheld the ruins
of her son.
He often thought it puzzling how she should never
have imagined that some one like him might be tempted
to do at some time what he was now about to do. It
seemed remarkable beyond all else that her mind should
possess such an opaque oneness of purpose, such an ex-
traordinary " thickness/ ' to use the term of the valley.
Yet this was a quality peculiar to the gentle hush of
the grassy places. It seemed to arise from the removal
of an intelligent feeling of humanity from the conduct
of life and the replacement of it by a spitefulness that
killed and blinded. It was the explanation of many of
the tragedies of the valley. Like a malignant wind, it
warped the human growth Within the valley's confines.
It was what had happened to Mrs. Brennan and, because
of the action he was taking in regard to her, what was
now about to happen to Myles Shannon. He seemed to
forget, as he went about his vengeance, that subtlety is
akin to humor, and that humor, in its application to
the satiric perception of things, is the quality which
constantly heals the cut it has made. He might cer-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 79
tainly leave the mark of his vengeance upon Mrs. Bren-
nan, but there was the danger of the weapon recoiling
upon himself and his kinsman. It was a horrible plan
indeed, this, of setting one young man to ruin another.
It was such a conflict, with such an anticipated ending,
as had shaped itself inevitably out of the life of the
valley. Where life was an endless battle of conflicting
characters and antagonized dispositions it seemed par-
ticularly meet that a monumental conflict should at last
have been instituted.
Ulick Shannon was finding the valley very little to his
mind. But for the intervention of his uncle he was
several times upon the point of returning to Dublin.
Although it was for a rest he had come the place was
too damnably dull. Garradrimna was an infernal hole !
Yet he went there often, and it was remarkable that his
uncle said never a word when he arrived home from
the village, several nights, in a condition that was not
one of absolute sobriety. On the contrary, he seemed
to take a certain joyful interest in such happenings.
His uncle often spoke of the young man, John Bren-
nan, whom he desired him to meet, and it was surpris-
ing that this young man had not made the visit he had
promised to the house among the trees.
Myles Shannon was beginning to be annoyed by the
appearance of this slight obstruction in the path of his
plan. Had Mrs. Brennan forbidden the friendship he
had proposed? It was very like her indeed, and of
course she had her reasons. . . . But it would never do
to let her triumph over him now, and he having such a
lovely plan. He would go so far as to send his nephew
80 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
to call at her house to make the acquaintance of Nan
Byrne's son. It would be queer surely to see him call-
ing at that house and inquiring for John Brennan when
his father had gone there aforetime to see John Bren-
nan 's mother. But how was Ulick to know and view
from such an angle this aspect of his existence?
Yet, after all, the meeting of John Brennan and Ulick
Shannon happened quite accidentally and upon such a
morning as we have seen John in Garradrimna.
Ulick had gone for a walk around that way before
his breakfast. He was not feeling particularly well as
he paused at the end of the valley road to survey the
mean street of Garradrimna, down which he had
marched last night with many a wild thought rushing
into his mind as the place and the people fell far be-
neath his high gaze.
His quick eye caught sight of something now which
seemed a curiously striking piece in the drab mosaic of
his morning. It was a little party of four going to-
wards the chapel. The pair in front could possibly be
none other than the bridegroom and his bride. It was
easy to see that marriage was their purpose from the
look of open rapture upon their faces. The bridesmaid
and the best man were laughing and chatting gaily as
they walked behind them. They seemed to be having
the best of it.
Ulick thought it interesting to see this pair moving
eagerly towards a mysterious purpose. . . . He was
struck by the fact that it was a most merciful thing
that all men do not lift the veil of life so early as he
had done. . . . The harsh, slight laugh which came
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 81
from him was like the remembered laughter of a dead
Now that his eyes were falling, with an unfilled look,
upon the street along which the four had gone he began
to see people who had been looking out move away from
the squinting windows and a few seconds later come
hurriedly out of their houses and go towards the chapel.
The poor, self-conscious clod, who had dearly desired
to marry the girl of his fancy quietly and with no pry-
ing eyes, amid the fragrance of the fine June morning,
had, after all, succeeded only in drawing about him the
leering attention of all the village. There were ever so
many people going towards the chapel this morning.
The lot was large enough to remind one of a Sunday
congregation at either Mass, this black drove now mov-
ing up the laneway. Ulick Shannon went forward to
Coming near the chapel he encountered a young man
in black, who wore the look of a student. This must be
John Brennan, he thought, of whom his uncle had so
repeatedly spoken. He turned and said:
"Good morning! I'm Ulick Shannon, and I fancy
you're Brennan, the chap my uncle has talked of so
often. He has been expecting you to call at Scarden
They shook hands.
"Yes, I'm John Brennan, and I'm delighted to meet
you. I have not forgotten your uncle's kind invita-
Together they entered the House of God. . . . Father
O'Keeffe was already engaged in uniting the couple.
82 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Distantly they could hear him mumbling the words of
the ceremony. . . . All eyes were upon the priest and
the four people at the altar. . . . Suddenly Ulick
giggled openly, and John Brennan blushed in confu-
sion, for this was irreverence such as he had never be-
fore experienced in the presence of sacred things.
NEXT day Ulick Shannon made a call upon John
Brennan and invited him for a drive. Outside
upon the road Charlie Clarke's motor was snorting and
humming. Ulick had learned to drive a car in Dublin,
and had now hired Mr. Clarke's machine for the day.
"You see," he said airily, "that I have dispensed with
the sanctimonious Charlie and am driving myself.
Meaning no respect to you, Brennan, one approach to
a priest is as much as I can put up with at a time."
Mrs. Brennan had come to the window, which looked
out upon the little garden wicket by which they were
standing. . . . Her eyes were dancing and wild
thoughts were rushing into her mind. . . . Here, at last,
was the achieved disaster and the sight her eyes had
most dreaded to see her son and the son of Henry
Shannon talking together as brothers.
An ache that was akin to hunger seemed to have
suddenly attacked her. Her lips became parched and
dry and her jaws went through the actions of swallow-
ing although there was nothing in her mouth. Then
she felt herself being altogether obliterated as she stood
there by the window. She was like a wounded bird
that had broken itself in an attempt to attain to the sun-
light beyond. . . . And to think that it had fallen at
last, this shadow of separation from her lovely son.
John came to the door and called in:
84 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"I'm going for a drive in the motor with Mr. Shan-
These were his very words, and they caused her to
move away towards the sewing-room with the big tears
gathering into her eyes. From her seat she saw her
son take up his proud position by the side of Ulick
Shannon. There was something for you, now! Her
son driving in a motor car with a young man who was
going on to be a doctor, in the high noon of a working
day, all down through the valley of Tullahanogue. If
only it happened to be with any other one in the
whole world. What would all the people say but what
they must say ? . . . She saw the two students laughing
just before the car started as if some joke had suddenly
leaped into being between them.
Ned Brennan came into the room. He had been
making an effort to do something in the garden when
the car had distracted him from his task. Well, that
was what you might call a grand thing ! While he was
here digging in his drought, his son, I thank ye, going
off to drive in a motor with a kind of a gentleman. His
mind went swiftly moving towards a white heat of
temper which must be eventually cooled in the black
pools of Garradrimna. He came into the room, a great
blast of a man in his anger, his boots heavy with the
clay of the garden.
"Well, be the Holy Farmer! that's the grand turn-
out! . . . But sure they're a kind of connections, don't
you know, and I suppose 'tis only natural?"
Great God! He had returned again to this, and to
the words she feared most of all to hear falling from
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 85
"A curious attraction, don't you know, that the
breed of the Byrnes always had for the breed of the
Shannons. Eh, Nan?"
Mrs. Brennan said nothing. It had been the way
with her that she felt a certain horror of Ned when he
came to her in this state, but now she was being moved
by a totally different feeling. She was not without a
kind of pity for him as she suddenly realized once more
how she had done him a terrible and enduring in-
jury. ... As he stood there glowering down upon her
he was of immense bulk and significance. If he struck
her now she would not mind in the least.
"And they're like one another too, them two chaps,
as like as brothers. And mebbe they are brothers.
Eh, Nan, eh; what happened the child you had for
Henry Shannon? It died, did it? Why 'tis only the
other night that Larry Cully came at me again about
it in Garradrimna. 'I .see you have your sons home
about you/ says he, 'and that must be the great com-
fort to a man, your son John,' says he, 'and your son
Ulick. Maybe ye never heard tell,' says he, 'that Grace
Gogarty's child died young and that Henry Shannon
bought his other son from his other mother-in-law to
prevent it being a rising disgrace to him. Bought it
for a small sum,' says he, 'and put it in the place of
his lawful son, and his wife never suspected anything
until the day she died, poor woman; for she was to be
pitied, having married such a blackguard.' Is that
true, is it, Nan?"
Oh, Blessed Mother ! this was even more terrible than
the suspicion Marse Prendergast had put upon her. It
seemed less of a crime that the little innocent babe should
86 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
have been murdered in this house and buried in the
garden than that her old, dead mother should have sold
it to Henry Shannon. And how was she to know?
Twenty-five years had passed since that time when she
had been at Death's door, nor realizing anything. . . .
And her mother had never told her. ... It would be
strange if she had gone digging at any time for the
tiny bones of the little infant that had never been bap-
tized. People passing the road might suspect her pur-
pose and say hard things. . . . But sure they said hard
things of her still after all the years. It was dreadful
to think how any one could concoct a lie like this, and
that no one could forget. Old Marse Prendergast knew
well. Deep in her wicked mind, for twenty-five years,
the secret had been hidden. It was a torture to think
of the way she would be hinting at it forever. . . . And
just quite recently she had threatened to tell John.
Bit by bit was being erected in her mind the terrible
speculation as to what really was the truth and the full
extent of her sin. Yet it was not a thing she could set
about making inquiries after. . . . She wondered and
wondered did Myles Shannon, the uncle of Ulick, know
the full truth. Why did not her husband drop that
grimy, powerful hand? Her breasts craved its blow
now, even as they had yearned long ago for the fum-
bling of the little, blind mouth.
But he was merely asking her for money to buy drink
for himself in Garradrimna. Hitherto this request had
always given her pain, but now, somehow, it came dif-
ferently to her ears. There was no hesitation on her
part, no making of excuses. She went upstairs to the
box which held her most dear possession the money she
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 87
had saved so well through all the years for the fittiug-
out of Ned to go proudly with her to attend the ordina-
tion of their son John. She opened the box with the
air of one doing a deliberate thing. The money, which
amounted in all to about five pounds, was . still in the
form in which she had managed to scrape it together.
In notes and gold and silver, and even copper. Before
this it would have appeared as a sacrilege on her part
to have touched a penny of it, but now she had no
thought of this kind. Ned wanted the money to pur-
chase the means of forgetfulness of the great injury she
had done him.
She counted thirty pennies, one by one, into the
pocket of her apron. This seemed the least suspicious
way of giving it to him, for he had still no idea that
she could have any little store laid by. It was hardly
possible when one considered how much he drank upon
ner in the village.
She came down the stairs in silence, and spoke no
word to him as she handed over the money. His lips
seemed to split into a sort of sneer as he took it from her.
Then he went out the door quickly and down the white
road toward Garradrimna.
For the admiration and surprise of John Brennan,
Ulick Shannon had been displaying his skill with the
wheel. Soon the white, tidy houses beyond the valley
were whizzing past and they were running down the
easy road which led into the village of Ballinamult.
They had moved in a continuous cloud of dust from
Ulick said he was choked with dust as he brought the
88 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
car to a standstill outside the "North Leinster Arms."
He marched deliberately into the public bar, and John
Brennan followed after with less sure footsteps, for it
was his first appearance in a place of this kind. There
was a little, plump girl standing up on a chair rearrang-
ing the bottles of whiskey and dusting the shelves.
Ulick would seem to have already visited this tavern,
for he addressed the girl rather familiarly as "Mary
Essie. " She looked at the young man impudently as
she wheeled around to exhibit herself to the best advan-
tage. Ulick leaned his elbows upon the low counter and
gazed towards her with his deep, dark eyes. Some quite
unaccountable thing caused John Brennan to blush, but
he noticed that the girl was not blushing. She was
more brazenly forcing her body into exhibition.
Ulick called for a drink, whatever his friend Brennan
would have, and a bottle of Bass for himself. It ap-
peared a little wrong to John that he should be about
to partake of a drink in a pub., for the "North Leinster
Arms' ' was nothing more than a sufficiently bad public-
house. He had a sudden recollection of having once
been given cakes and sweets in an evil-smelling tap-
room one day he had gone with his mother long ago to
Mullaghowen. He thought of the kind of wine he had
been given that day and immediately the name was
forced to his lips by the thought "Port wine!"
When the barmaid turned around to fill their drinks
the young men had a view of the curves of her body.
John Brennan was surprised to find himself dwelling
upon them in the intense way of his friend.
Before they left Ulick had many drinks of various
kinds, and it was interesting to observe how he ex-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 89
panded with their influence. He began to tell ' ' smutty ' '
stories to Mary Essie. She listened with attention. No
blush came into her face, and her glad neck looked
brazen. . . . John Brennan felt himself swallowing great
gulps of disgust. . . . His training had led him to asso-
ciate the female form with the angelic form coining down
from Heaven. Yet here was something utterly different.
... A vulgar girl, with fat, round hands and big
breasts, her lips red as a recent wound in soft flesh, and
He was glad when they regained the sunlight, yet the
day was of such a character as creates oppression by the
very height of its splendor. Ulick was in such a mood
for talk that they had almost forgotten the luncheon-
basket at the back of the car.
Beyond Ballinamult they stopped again where the
ruins of a moldering Abbey lay quietly surrounded by
a circle of furze-covered hills. . . . Ulick expanded still
further with the meal, yet his discourse still ran along
the old trail. He was favoring his friend with a sketch
of his life, and it seemed to be made up largely of the
women he had known in Dublin. Quite suddenly he
said what seemed to John a very terrible thing :
"I have learned a lot from them, and let me tell you
this it has been my experience that you could not trust
your own mother or the girl of your heart. They seem
to lack control, even the control of religion. They do not
realize religion at all. They are creatures of impulse."
Here was a sentiment that questioned the very fact of
existence. ... It seemed dreadful to connect the tri-
umph of love and devotion that was his mother with this
consequent suggestion of the failure of existence. . . .
90 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Together they went across the grassy distance towards
the crumbling ruin wherein the good monks of old had
lived and prayed. And surely, he thought, the great
spirit of holiness which had led men hither to spend their
lives in penance and good works could not have departed
finally from this quiet place, nor from the green fields
beyond the rim of furze-covered hills.
Yet upon his ears were falling the even, convincing
tones of Ulick Shannon, still speaking cynically.
" Behold/' he was saying, "that it is to this place the
younger generation throng on the Sabbath. Around you,
upon the ruined and bare walls, you will observe not
pious words, but the coupled names of those who have
come here to sin."
"And look at this!" he exclaimed, picking from a
niche in the wall a long shin bone of one of the ancient
monks, which possessed the reputed power of cures and
miracles. For a moment he examined it with a profes-
sional eye, then handed it to John Brennan. There were
two names scribbled upon it in pencil, and beneath them
a lewd expression. Ulick had only laid hands upon it by
the merest accident, but it immediately gave body to all
the airy ideas he had been putting forth. There was
something so greatly irreverent in the appearance of this
accidental piece of evidence that no argument could be
put forward against it. It was terrible and conclusive.
The evening was far advanced when John Brennan re-
turned home. His mother and father were seated in the
kitchen. His father was drunk, and she was reading
him a holy story, with an immeasurable feeling of des-
pondence in her tones. John became aware of this as he
entered the house.
REBECCA KERB had been ill for a few days and
did not attend school until the Monday following
her arrival in the valley. There she made the acquaint-
ance of Mrs. Wyse, the principal of Tullahanogue Girls'
School, and Monica McKeon, the assistant of Tulla-
hanogue Boys' School. Mrs. Wyse was a woman who
divided her energies between the education of other
women's children and the production of children of her
own. Year by year, and with her growing family, had
her life narrowed down to the painful confines of its
present condition. She had the reputation of being a
hard mistress to the children and a harsh superior to her
assistants. From the very first she seemed anxious to
show her authority over Rebecca Kerr.
In the forenoon of this day she was standing by her
blackboard at the east end of the school, imparting some
history to her most advanced class. Rebecca was at the
opposite end teaching elementary arithmetic to the
younger children when something in the would-be im-
pressive seriousness of her principal's tone caused her to
Mrs. Wyse saw the smile, and it lit her anger. She
"Miss Kerr, are you quite sure that that exercise in
simple addition is correct?"
"Yes, perfectly certain, Mrs. Wyse."
92 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
The chalk had slipped upon the greasy blackboard,
making a certain 5 to appear as a 6 from the distance
at which she stood, and it was into this accidental trap
that Mrs. Wyse had fallen. Previous assistants had
studied her ways and had given up the mistake of con-
tradicting her even when she was obviously in the wrong.
But this was such a straight issue, and Rebecca Kerr
had had no opportunity of knowing her. She came
down in a flaming temper from the rostrum. Rebecca
awaited her near approach with a smiling and assured
complacency which must have been maddening. But
Mrs. Wyse was not one to admit a mistake. Quick as
lightning she struck upon the complaint that the exercise
was beyond the course of instruction scheduled for this
particular standard. . . . And here were the founda-
tions of an enmity laid between these two women. They
would not be friends in any fine way through the length
of all the long days they might teach together.
Thus for Rebecca the first day in the valley school
dragged out its slow length and was dreary and dread-
ful until noon. Then Monica McKeon came in from the
Boys' School and they took their luncheon together.
. . . They went on chattering away until the door of
the schoolroom was suddenly darkened by the shadows
of two men. The three women arose in confusion as
Master Donnellan called them to the door. There was
a young man standing outside who presented a strong
contrast to the venerable figure of the master. The lat-
ter, in his roundabout, pedagogic way, went on to tell
how the stranger had strayed into the school playground
and made himself known. He wished to show him the
whole of the building, and introduced him as "Mr. Ulict
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 95
Shannon, Mr. Myles Shannon's nephew, you know."
The three female teachers took an immediate mental
note of the young man. They saw him as neat and well-
dressed, with a half-thoughtful, half-reckless expression
upon his fine face, with its deep-set, romantic eyes. The
few words he spoke during the general introduction ap-
peared to Rebecca to be in such a gentle voice. There
were some moments of awkward silence. Then, between
the five of them, they managed to say a few conventional
things. All the while those great, deep eyes seemed to
be set upon Rebecca, and she was experiencing the dis-
quieting feeling that she had met him at some previous
time in some other place in this wide world. The eyes
of Monica McKeon were upon both of them in a way
that seemed an attempt to search their minds for their
thoughts of the moment.
Immediately he was gone Mrs. "Wyse and Miss McKeon
fell to talking of him :
"He's the hateful-looking thing; I'd hate him like
poison," said Monica.
' * Indeed what could he be and the kind of a father he
had? Sure I remember him well, a quare character,'*
said Mrs. Wyse.
"I wonder what could have brought him around here
to-day of all days since he came to Scarden?"
This with her eyes set firmly upon Rebecca.
Mrs. Wyse was not slow to pick up the insinuation.
"Oh, looking after fresh girls always, the same as his
"He 'snot bad-looking."
" No ; but wouldn 't you know well he has himself de-
stroyed with the kind of life he lives up in Dublin?
$4 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
They say he 's gone to the bad and that he '11 never pass
his exams. ' '
Every word of the conversation seemed to be spoken
frith the direct intention of attacking certain feelings
Which had already begun to rise in the breast of Rebecca
Kerr. . . . Her mind was being held fast by the well-
Remembered spell of his eyes.
The afternoon passed swiftly for Mrs. Wyse. She was
so engrossed by thought of this small thing that had
happened that she gave wrong dates in another history
lesson, false notes in the music lesson, and more than one
incorrect answer to simple sums in the arithmetic les-
Rebecca was glad when three o'clock and her freedom
at last came. Out in the sunlight she would be able to
indulge in certain realizations which were impossible of
enjoyment here in this crowded schoolroom. The day
was still enthroned beneath the azure dome. This was
the period of its languorous yawn when it seemed to
dream for a space and gather strength before it came
down from its high place and went into the long, wind-
ing ways of evening.
There were men engaged in raising sand from a pit by
the roadside as she passed along. A pause in the ring-
ing of their shovels made her conscious that they had
stopped in their labor to gaze after her as she went. . . .
Her neck was warm and blushing beneath the shadow of
Her confusion extended to every portion of her body
when she came upon Ulick Shannon around a bend of
the road, book in hand, sauntering along.
He saluted as she overtook him, and spoke of the pleas-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 95
ant afternoon. . . . She hoped he was enjoying his holi-
days here in the valley. He seemed to be spending the
time very quietly. Reading? Poetry? Just fancy!
The Daffodil Fields, by John Masefield. What a pretty
name? Was he devoted to poetry, and was this par-
ticular poem a good one?
"It is a great tale of love and passion that happened
in one of the quiet places of the world/' he told her with
a kind of enthusiasm coming into his words for the first
"One of the quiet places?" she murmured, evidently
at a loss for something else to say.
"Yes, a quiet place which must have been like this
place and yet, at the same time, most wonderfully dif-
ferent, for no poet at all could imagine any tale of love
and passion springing from the life about us here. The
people of the valley seem to have died before they were
born. I will lend you this poem, if you'd care to have
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Shannon!" she said.
They had wandered down a lane which led from the
high road towards the peaceful fields beyond the little
lake. This lane, he told her, was called "The Road of
the Dead," and would afford her a short cut to her lodg-
ing at Sergeant McGoldrick's.
For lack of anything else to say, she remarked upon
the strangeness of this name The Road of the Dead.
He said it seemed a title particularly suitable. He went
on to elaborate the idea he had just expressed:
"Around and about here they are all dead dead.
No passion of any kind comes to light their existence.
Their life is a thing done meanly, shudderingly within
96 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
the shadow of the grave. That is how I have been see-
ing it for the past few weeks. They hate the occurrence
of new people in their midst. They hate me already,
and now they will hate you. The sight of us walking
together like this must surely cause them to hate us still
more. ' '
She was wondering that his words should hold a sense
of consideration for her, seeing that they had been ac-
quainted only such a short while.
"This way leads from a graveyard to a graveyard,
and they have a silly superstition that dead couples are
sometimes seen walking here. Particularly dismal also
do I consider this picture of their imagination. The
idea of any one thinking us a dead couple ! ' '
As he said this her blushing cheek showed certainly
that life was strong in her. . . . Upon the wings of his
words grand thoughts had gone flying through her mind.
All day she had been looking forward with dread to the
yellow, sickly, sunlit time after school. And now to
think that the miracle of this romantic young man had
happened. . . . Both grew silent. Rebecca's eyes were
filling with visions and wandering over a field of young
green corn. They were dancing upon the waves of sun-
light which shimmered over all the clean, feathery sur-
face of the field. The eyes of Ulick were straying from
the landscape and dwelling upon her deeply, upon the
curves of her throat and bosom, and upon the gentle
billows of her hair. Over all his face was clouding that
mysterious, murky expression which had come as he
gazed upon the little barmaid of the "North Leinster
Arms" a few days previously.
REBECCA wanted some light blouses. Those she
possessed had survived through one summer, and
it was all that could be expected of them. So one day
she ran down to Brennan 's, during the half hour allowed
for recreation, to leave the order. When she entered the
sewing-room Mrs. Brennan was busy at her machine.
Her ever-tired eyes struggled into a beaming look upon
The young girl, with her rich body, seemed to bring a
clean freshness into the room. For a moment the heavy
smell of the miscellaneous materials about her died down
in the nostrils of Mrs. Brennan. But this might have
arisen from a lapse of other faculties occasioned by her
agreeable surprise. So here was the new teacher who
had so recently occupied her tongue to such an extent.
She now beheld her hungrily.
Rebecca laid her small parcel of muslin upon the table,
and became seated at the request of Mrs. Brennan.
" That's the grand day, ma'am/' said she.
" 'Tis the grand day indeed, miss," said Mrs. Bren-
"Not nice, however, to be in a stuffy schoolroom."
"Indeed you might swear that, especially in such a
school as Tullahanogue, with a woman like Mrs. Wyse;
she ? s the nice-looking article of a mistress ! "
Rebecca almost bounded in her chair. She had
98 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
fancied Mrs. Brennan, from the nature of her occupa-
tion, as a gabster, but she had not reckoned upon such a
sudden and emphatic confirmation of her notion. Im-
mediately she tried to keep the conversation from tak-
ing this turn, which, in a way, might bring it to a per-
sonal issue. But Mrs. Brennan was not to be baulked
of her opportunity.
She began to favor her visitor with a biography of
Mrs. Wyse. It was a comprehensive study, including
all her aspects and phases. Her father and his exact
character, and her mother and what she was. Her hus-
band, and how the marriage had been arranged. How
she had managed to gain her position. Everything was
explained with a wealth of detail.
Rebecca out of the haze into which the garrulous re-
cital had led her, spoke suddenly and reminded Mrs.
Brennan of the passage of the half hour. Mrs. Bren-
nan quickly fancied that the cause of the girl's lack of
enthusiasm in this outpouring of information might
have arisen from the fact that Mrs. Wyse had forestalled
her with a previous attack. Thus, by a piece of swift
transition, she must turn the light upon herself and
upon the far, bright period of her young girlhood.
Now maybe Miss Kerr would like to look through the
album of photos upon the table. This was a usual ex-
tension of feminine curiosity. . . . Rebecca opened the
heavy, embossed album and began to turn over the
pages. . . . There was a photo of a young girl near the
beginning. She was of considerable beauty, even so far
as could be discerned from this faded photo, taken in the
early eighties. As Rebecca lingered over it, the face of
Mrs. Brennan was lit by a sad smile.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 99
"She was nice, and who might she have been?" said
"That was me when I was little and innocent, " said
Rebecca looked from Mrs. Brennan to the photo, and
again from the photo to Mrs. Brennan. She found it
difficult to believe that this young girl, with the long,
brown hair and the look of pure innocence in the fine
eyes, could be the faded, anxious, gossipy woman sitting
here at her labor in this room. . . . She thought of the
years before herself and of all the tragedy of woman-
hood. . . . There was silence between them for a space.
Mrs. Brennan appeared as if she had been overpowered
by some sad thought, for not a word fell from her as she
began to untie the parcel of blouse material her customer
had brought. There was no sound in the wide noontide
stillness save the light fall of the album leaves as they
were being turned. . . . Rebecca had paused again, and
this time was studying the photos of two young men set
in opposite pages. Both were arrayed in the fashions
of 1890, and each had the same correct, stiff pose by an
impossible-looking pedestal, upon which a French-gray
globe reposed. But there was a great difference to be
immediately observed as existing between the two men.
One was handsome and of such a bearing as instantly
appeals to feminine eyes. It was curious that they
should have been placed in such contiguous contradis-
tinction, for the other man seemed just the very op-
posite in every way to the one who was so handsome.
It could not have been altogether by accident, was Re-
becca's thought, and, with the intuition of a woman at
work in her, she proceeded to lay the foundations o.f a.
100 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
romance. . . . Mrs. Brennan was observing her closely,
and it grew upon her that she had been destined to bare
her soul to this girl in this moment.
"That was the nice young man," said Rebecca, in-
dicating the one who, despite his stiff pose by the ped-
estal, looked soldierly with his great mustache.
"Indeed he was all that," said Mrs. Brennan. "I
met him when I was away off in England. He was a
rich, grand young man, and as fond of me as the day was
long; but he was a Protestant and fearful of his people
to change his religion, and to be sure I could not change
mine. For the sake of me holy religion I gave up all
thoughts of him and married Ned Brennan, whose like-
ness you see on the other page. ' '
Rebecca lifted her eyes from the album and looked full
at Mrs. Brennan. She wondered how much truth could
be in this story. The dressmaker was a coarse woman
and not at all out of place in this mean room. She
imagined the heavy husband of her choice as a suitable
mate for her.
This sudden adoption of the attitude of a kind of
martyr did not seem to tit well upon her. Rebecca could
not so quickly imagine her as having done a noble and
heroic thing for which she had not received sufficient
Rebecca was still turning the leaves. She had hurried
through this little pageant of other generations, and was
at the last pages. Now she was among people of the
present, and her attention was no longer held by the
peculiarities of the costumes. . . . Her mind was begin-
ning to wander. Suddenly she was looking down upon a
photo in the older style and the anachronism was start-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 101
ling. Had it been placed in any other portion of the
album she might not have so particularly noticed it. It
was the likeness of a dark, handsome man on horse-
"Who was he?" she said, almost unconsciously.
A flush passed over the face of Mrs. Brennan, but she
recovered herself by an effort. She smiled queerly
through her confusion and said:
"Indeed 'tis you who ought to know that."
"How should I know?" Rebecca was amazed.
"Don't you know Ulick Shannon?"
It was now Rebecca's turn to be confused.
Fancy this woman knowing that she had been talk-
ing just once with Ulick Shannon. . . . Evidently the
tongue of this place had already begun to curl around
"But this is not Ulick Shannon!" She blushed as
she found herself speaking his name.
"No, but it is the photo of his dead father, Henry
Mrs. Brennan heaved a great sigh as she said this.
She rose from her seat by the machine and moved to-
wards the place where Rebecca was bending over the
album. She gazed down at the picture of the dead man
with moist eyes. . . . There was silence between them
now for what seemed a long time. Rebecca became
alarmed as she thought that she might have overstayed
the half hour. At the school the priest or the inspector
might have called and found her absent from her post.
She broke in abruptly upon Mrs. Brennan 's fit of in-
trospection, and gave a few hurried orders about the
102 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"Will you be giving me the making of your next new
costume? 7 ' said Mrs. Brennan.
"Well, I'm sorry I don't think so. You see I have
it being made already in Dublin."
"In Dublin itself? Well, well! that'll be the great
She felt it as an affront to her reputation that -any one
who lived in the neighborhood should patronize other
places for their needs. She took such doings as exhibi-
tions of spite and malice against her. And, somehow,
she could not get rid of the idea now, although this girl
evidently knew nothing of her history.
She was seeing Rebecca to the door when John Bren-
nan came up the little path. She introduced him, and
told how he was her son and, with vanity in her tones,
that he was going to be a priest.
"That'll give her something to think of, with her
slighting me be telling how she was having her costume
made be another. A woman that's going to have a son
a priest ought to be good enough to make for her, and
she a whipster that's after coming from God knows
The mind of Mrs. Brennan was saying this to itself
as she stood there at her own door gazing in pride upon
her son. Rebecca Kerr was looking up into his face
with a laugh in her eyes. He was such a nice young
fellow, she was thinking. John Brennan was blushing
in the presence of this girl and glancing shyly at her
Suddenly she broke away from them with a laughing
word upon her lips, ran out to the road, and down to-
wards the school.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 10S
"She's a very nice girl, mother."
"Oh! indeed she's not much, John; and I knew well
I wouldn't like her from the very first I heard tell of
LARGE posters everywhere announced the holding of
a concert in Garradrimna. As in many other as-
pects of life in the village, it was not given to John
Brennan to see their full meaning. He had not even
seen in Thomas James, who posted the bills, a symbolic
figure, but only one whom disaster had overtaken
through the pursuit of his passion. For many a year
had Thomas James gone about in this way, foretelling
some small event in the life of Garradrimna. Now it
was a race-meeting or a circus, again an auction or a
fair. All the while he had been slipping into his pres-
ent condition, and herein lay the curious pathos of him.
For he would never post like this the passing of his
own life; he would never set up a poster of Eternity.
It was curious to think of that, no poster at all of the
exact moment amid the mass of Time when the Great
White Angel would blow his blast upon the Shining
Trumpet to awaken all Earth by its clear, wide ringing
across the Seven Seas.
John Brennan spoke to his mother of the concert.
"The cheek of them I do declare, with their concert.
People don't find it hard enough to get their money
without giving it to them. Bits of shop-boys and shop-
girls! But I suppose they want new clothes and cos-
tumes for the summer. I'll go bail you'll see them girls
with new hats after this venture."
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 105
"The bills announce that it is for the Temperance
"And them's the quare funds, you might say, and the
quare club. Young fellows and young girls meeting in
the one room to get up plays. No good can come of it."
' ' Of course we need not attend if we don 't like. ' '
"Ah, we must go all the same. If we didn't, 'tis what
they would say mebbe that we hadn't the means, and so
we must let them know that we have. It wouldn't be
nice to see you away from it."
"I have no desire to go, mother, I assure you. A
quiet evening more or less will not matter."
"But sure it'll be a bit of diversion and amusement."
"Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking, so I didn't
see anything very wrong in going or in supporting those
who organized it. But if you don't care to go, it does
"Ah, but wouldn't it be the quare thing to see your
mother ignorant and not having a word to say about
what was after passing to any one that would come in,
and they knowing the whole thing? Now what you'll do
for me, John, is this. You'll go into Phillips 's this even-
ing and get two of the most expensive tickets, one for
yourself and one for me."
John Brennan had a momentary realization of the
pitiful vanity behind this speech. He remained think-
ing while she went upstairs for the price of the tickets,
for that must be her object, he fancied, in ascending into
the upper story. He could hear her moving a trunk
and opening it. The sounds caine to him with perfect
clearness in the still room and struck him with a sense
of their little mournfulness, even though he was quite
106 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
unaware that his mother had secretly begun the destruc-
tion of a bright portion of her life's dream.
In the evening he went to the village for the tickets.
"It'll be a grand turn-out," said Jimmy Phillips, as
he took in the money and blinked in anticipation with
his one eye.
"I'm sure," said John, as he left the little shop where
you might buy the daily newspaper and sweets and
He strolled up the street towards the old castle of the
De Lacys. The local paper, published at Mullaghowen,
was never tired of setting down its fame. The uncouth
historians of the village had almost exhausted their ad-
jectives in relating the exploits of this marauding baron
of the Normans who had here built him a fortress, from
which his companies of conquering freebooters had
sallied forth so long ago. Yet, as an extraordinary mis-
take on the part of those who concerned themselves so
intimately with the life around them, they had altogether
missed the human side of the crumbling ruin. Of what
romances of knighthood it had once been the scene 1 Of
what visions of delight when fair women had met
cuirassed gallants? Of all that pride which must have
reared itself aloft in this place which was now the resort,
by night, of the most humble creatures of the wild?
Not one of them had ever been able to fancy the thoughts
which must have filled the mind of Hugh De Lacy as
he drew near this noble monument of his glory after
some successful expedition against the chieftains of the
Through the thin curtain of the twilight John Bren-
nan saw two figures stealing from the labyrinthine ways
THE VALLEY OF feQtJINTINfi WINDOWS 107
which led beneath the castle into what were known as
* ' The Cells. ' ' These were dark, narrow places in which
two together would be in close proximity, and it was
out from them that this man and this woman were now
stealing. He could not be certain of their identity, but
they looked like two whom he knew. . . . And he had
heard that Rebecca Kerr was going to sing at the con-
cert, and also that Ulick Shannon was coaching the Gar-
radrimna Dramatic Class in the play they were to pro-
duce, which was one he had seen at the Abbey Theater.
... A curious thrill ran through him which was like a
spasm of pain. Could it be this girl and this young man
who had spoken with such disgusting intimacy of the
female sex in the bar of the " North Leinster Arms" in
Ballinamult. . . . ? They went by a back way into the
Club, where the rehearsals were now going forward.
John Brennan was sitting stiffly beside his mother in
the front seats. Around and about him were people of
renowned respectability, who had also paid two shillings
each for their tickets. The seven publicans of Garra-
drimna were there, some with their wives, some with
their wives and daughters, and some with their wives
and daughters and sisters-in-law. The Clerk of the
Union continually adjusting and re-adjusting his lemon-
colored gloves. The old bespectacled maid from the
Post Office sitting near the gray, bullet-headed postmas-
ter, whose apoplectic jowl was shining. They were
keeping up a continual chatter and buzz and giggle be-
fore the rise of the curtain. The jaws of the ancient
postmistress never ceased to work, and those hot words
of criticism and scorn which did not sizzle outwardly
108 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
from her lips dropped inwardly to feed the fire of her
mind, which was a volcano in perpetual eruption.
Mrs. Brennan sat in silence by the side of her son, in
the pride of his presence, glad that he and she were here.
She was as fine as any of them, for she kept fine raiment
for such occasions. In the first place as an advertise-
ment for her craft of dressmaker, and, secondly, to afford
a cloak for her past, even as those among whom she sat
cloaked their pasts in heavy garments of pride. Her
attention was concentrated not so much upon the per-
formance she was about to witness as upon the audience
assembled to witness it. To her the audience was the
concert, and, although she was speaking no word, she was
as nervously observant as the old postmistress. She was
concerned by the task before her, for would she not be
in honor bound to "go over" all that passed to any one
who might happen into the sewing-room next day, and
lay everything bare with a searching and deadly analysis
for her son John? Thus was she not distracted by the
chattering and giggling, but perfectly at ease while her
mind worked nimbly within the limits of its purpose.
The mind of John Brennan was not enjoying the same
contentment. He was a little excited by the presence
of Rebecca Kerr on a seat adjacent. She had a place
on the program, and was awaiting her time to appear.
His eye was dwelling upon her hair, which lifted grace-
fully from her white neck in a smooth wave of gold. It
was the fairest thing in this clouded place of human
fumes, and the dear softness from which it sprang such
a recess of beauty.
The concert had at last begun. Harry Hoi ton, the
comic, was holding the stage and the audience was in
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 109
convulsions. Harry Holton was a distant disciple of
Harry Lauder. Having heard the funny Scotchman
upon the gramaphone he rather fancied that it was he
who should have been Harry Lauder. In course of time,
he had grown to think that it was Lauder and not him-
self who was doing the impersonation. His effort to be
broadly Scotch, while the marks of the son of Erin were
so strong upon him, was where, all unseen, his power to
move towards laughter really lay. Yet the audience
rocked its sides in crude mirth at this crude exhibition,
and each man asked his neighbor was it not the funniest
damned thing? The seven sleek publicans of Garra-
drimna threatened to explode. . . . John Brennan saw
big beads of perspiration rise upon the comedian's brow
and gleam in the sickly glare of the lamplight. Beyond
the excitement, from behind the scenes, came a new
sound the popping of a cork and through a chink
in the back cloth he saw Ulick Shannon take his drink
from the bottle. . . . Had Rebecca Kerr seen that as
well as he or . But his speculation was cut short
by the exit of the comedian after many encores, amidst
Next came Agnes McKeon, a near relation of Monica 's
and the schoolmistress of Ballinamult. Her big spec-
tacles gave her the look of her profession, and although
she sang well in a pleasing contralto, she appeared stiff
and un alluring in her white dress, which was starched
to a too strong resplendence. John heard two old maids
with scraggy necks remarking, not upon the power of
Miss McKeon 's voice, but upon the extraordinary white-
ness of her dress, and saying it was grand surely, but
they anxiously wondered were all her garments as clean
110 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
for they were ready to credit her with extreme sloven-
liness of habit.
The play was the notable event of the evening. Al-
though the work of a famous Abbey playwright, it had
been evidently re-written for Harry Holton, who was
the principal character. It was purely a Harry Holton
show. Dramatic point and sequence were sacrificed to
give scope to his renowned abilities. The other players
would seem to have merged themselves to give him
prominence. But the ladies had not merged their nat-
ural vanity. One in particular, who was supposed to
represent an old woman of Ireland, wore an attractive
dress which was in the prevailing fashion. It was the
illiterate pronunciation of even the simplest words
which chiefly amused John Brennan. Herein might be
detected the touch of Ulick Shannon, who, in coaching
the production, had evidently added this means of
diversion for his own amusement. John fancied that
his friend must be enjoying it hugely in there behind
When the play had been concluded by Harry Holton
giving a few steps of a dance, John Brennan saw Re-
becca moving towards the stage. He observed the light
grace with which she went to the ordeal. Here was no
self-consciousness, but instead that easy quietness which
is a part of dignity. ... It was Ulick Shannon who held
aside the curtain allowing her to pass in upon the stage.
"Well now, isn't that one the brazen thing?"
This was the expression of opinion which came clearly
from out the whispering and giggling. It was an un-
pardonable offense to appear in public like this with-
out a certain obvious fluttering and fear which it was
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 111
one of Garradrimna 's most notable powers to create. It
was a great flout. Even his mother was moved to nudge
him, so unusual was the method of this strange girl, ap-
pearing in public before the place into which she had
come to earn a living.
But she was singing. Rebecca Kerr was singing, and
to John Brennan this was all he wished to know. He
trembled as he listened and grew weary with delight.
He became nervous, as before some unaccountable ap-
prehension, and turned to his mother. She was looking
quizzically at the girl on the stage. But the stage to him
was now a sort of haze through which there moved ever
little dancing specks.
The concert was over and his mind had not yet re-
turned to realization. Rebecca had not come from be-
hind the scenes. He moved with his mother out into
the night, and, as they went, glanced around the corner
of the hall. He saw Rebecca Kerr and Ulick Shannon
standing within the shadow of the surrounding wood.
He spoke no word to his mother as they went down the
road towards the house in the valley.
AS if from the excitement of the concert, John Bren-
nan felt weary next morning. He had been
awake since early hours listening to the singing of the
birds in all the trees near the house. The jolly sounds
came to him as a great comfort. Consequently it was
with an acute sensation of annoyance that there crowded
in upon his sense of hearing little distracting noises.
Now it was the heavy rumble of a cart, again the screech
of a bicycle ridden by Farrell McGuinness on his way
to Garradriinna for the letters of his rounds; and, con-
tinually, the hard rasp of nailed boots upon the gravel
of the road.
His mother was moving about in the sewing-room be-
neath. He could hear the noise made by her scissors as,
from time to time, she laid it down and picked it up
again, while, mingled with these actions, occasionally
came up to him the little, unmusical song of the ma-
chine. His father was still snoring.
Last night Rebecca Kerr had shone in his eyes. . . .
But how exactly had she appeared before the eyes of
Garradrimna and the valley? After what manner
would she survive the strong blast of talk? The out-
look of his mother would be representative of the feel-
ing which had been created. Yet he felt that it would
be repugnant to him to speak with his mother of Re-
becca Kerr. There would be that faded woman, look-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 113
ing at him with a kind of loving anxiety which seemed
always to have the effect of crushing him back relent-
lessly towards the realities of the valley and his own
reality. After his thoughts of last night and this morn-
ing he hated to face his mother.
When at last he went down into the room where she
sat sewing he had such an unusual look in his eyes as
seemed to require the solace of an incident to fill it.
If he had expected to find a corresponding look upon
his mother's face he was disappointed. It seemed to
wear still the quizzical expression of last night, and a
slight curl at the corners of her mouth told that
her mind was being sped by some humorous or satirical
" Whatever was the matter with you last night,
John ? ' ' she asked.
She did not give him time to frame an answer, but
"And I dying down dead to talk to you about the
concert, I could not get you to speak one word to me
and we coming home/'
He noticed that she was in good heart, and, although
it was customary with him to be pleased to see his mother
in a mood of gladness, he could not enter into laughter
and gossip with her now.
But she could not be silent. This small expedition
into the outer world of passing events was now causing
her mind to leap, with surprising agility, from topic to
topic. . . . Yet what was striking John more than her
talk, and with a more arresting realization, was, that
although the hour of his Mass-going was imminent, she
was not reminding him or urging him to remembrance
114 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
of the good custom. ... At last he was driven by some
scruple to remind her of the time, and it was her an-
swer that finally amazed him:
"Ah, sure you mightn't go to-day, John. You're
tired and all to that, I know, and I want to tell you. . . .
He! he! he! Now wasn't it the funniest thing to see
the schoolmistress of Ballinamult and the schoolmistress
of Tullahanogue and they up upon the one stage with
Harry Helton's dramatics making sport for a lot of
grinning idiots? Like a couple of circus girls they were,
the brazen things! Indeed Miss Kerr is the bold-look-
ing hussy, with not a bit of shame in her at all. But
sure we may say she fell among her equals, for there
wasn't much class connected with it anyhow."
"I think Ulick Shannon was knocking about the
The words strayed, without much sense of meaning or
direction, out of the current of his musing, but they
produced a swift and certain effect upon Mrs. Brennan.
Her eyes seemed to cloud suddenly behind her glasses.
"Aye ... I wonder who was the girl he went off
with through the wood as we came out. Never fear it
was the new schoolmistress/'
She said this with a curious, dead quietness in her
tones, and when she had spoken she seemed instantly
sorry that the words had slipped from her lips. ... It
seemed a queer thing to say to her son and he going on
to be a priest.
John thought it very strange that she too should have
observed this incident, which he had imagined must
have been hidden from all eyes save his own. He now
wondered how many more must have seen it as he tried
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 115
to recall the sensations with which it had filled him. . , ,
But beyond this remarkable endeavor of his mind his
mother was again speaking:
"If you went now, you'd be in time for half -past eight
He did not fail to notice the immediate change which
had taken place in her, and wondered momentarily what
could have been its sudden cause. He was beginning to
notice of late that she had grown more and more sub-
ject to such unaccountable fits.
In his desire to obey her he was still strong, but, this
morning, as he walked along to Garradrimna he was
possessed by a certain feeling of annoyance which
seemed to strain the bond that stretched between them.
In the chapel he knelt beside Charlie Clarke, like the
voteens around them, with a lifeless acquiescence in the
ceremony. He was here not because his heart was here,
but merely because his mother had wished it. When his
lips moved, in mechanical mimicry of the priest, he felt
that the way of the hypocrite must be hard and lonely.
When he came out upon the road he was confused to
find himself face to face with Kebecca Kerr. It seemed
a trick of coincidence that he should meet her now, for it
had never happened on any other morning. Then he
suddenly remembered how his mother had kept him late
from "eight o'clock" by her talk of the concert, and it
was now Miss Kerr's school-going time. . . . She smiled
and spoke to him.
She looked handsome as she moved there along the
road from the house of Sergeant McGoldrick to the
Girls' School of Tullahanogue. She was in harmony
with the beauty of the morning. There had been a dull
116 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
pain upon his mind since he had last seen her, but al-
ready it was gone.
Although the concert might appear as the immediate
subject to which their minds would turn, this was not
so. They began to talk of places and things away from
She spun for his amusement many little yarns of the
nuns who conducted the college where she had been
trained. He told her stories of the priests who taught in
the English college where he was being educated for the
priesthood. They enlarged upon the peculiarities of
"And you're going to be a priest ?" she said, looking
up into his face suddenly with dancing eyes.
Such a question had never before been put to him in
exactly this way.
"I am ... At least, I think so. ... Oh, yes!" he
She laughed in a ringing, musical way that seemed to
hold just the faintest trace of mockery in its tones, but
it seemed, next instant, to be only by way of preface to
another conventual tale which she proceeded to tell.
Through the period of this story they did not notice
that they were being stared at by those they were meet-
ing upon the road. ... As she chatted and laughed,
his eyes would be straying, in spite of him, to that soft
place upon her neck from which her hair sprang upward.
It was with painful abruptness that she said: "Good
morning, Mr. Brennan!'' and went into the old, barrack-
WHEN John regained the house he saw that his
father's boots had disappeared from their ac-
customed place beside the fire. No doubt he had gone
away in them to Garradrimna. He had not met him
on the road, but there was a short way across the fields
and through the woods, a backward approach to three
of the seven publichouses along which Ned Brennan,
some rusty plumber's tool in his hand and his head
downcast, might be seen passing on any day.
He did not go straight into the sewing-room, for the
door was closed and he could hear the low murmur of
talk within. It must be some customer come to his
mother, he thought, or else some one who had called in
off the road to talk about the concert. Immediately he
realized that he was wrong in both surmises, for it was
the voice of Marse Prendergast raised in one of its re-
nowned outbursts of supplication.
"Now I suppose it's what you think that you're the
quare, clever woman, Nan Byrne, with your refusing me
continually of me little needs; but you'd never know
what I 'd be telling on you some day, and mebbe to your
grand son John."
"Sssh sssh sure I'll get it for you when he goes
from the kitchen."
This last was in a low tone and spoken by his mother.
" Mebbe it's what you're ashamed to let him see you
118 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
giving to me. That's a grand thing now, and I know-
ing what I know ! ' '
" Can't you be easy now and maybe 'tis a whole shill-
ing I'll be giving you in a few minutes."
This was altogether too generous of his mother. It
gave scope to Marse Prendergast to exercise her tyranny.
Her threat was part of the begging convention she had
framed for herself, and so it did not move him towards
speculation or suspicion. His mind drifted on to the
enjoyment of other thoughts, tho girl he had just walked
with down the valley, the remembered freshness of the
morning road. He came out to the door. The little
kitchen garden stretched away from his feet. An
abandoned spade stood up lonely and erect in the mid-
dle of the cabbage-plot. Around it were a few square
feet of freshly-turned earth. It was the solitary trace
of his existence that his father had left behind. ... As
the mind of John Brennan came to dwell upon the lonely
spectacle of the spade the need for physical exertion
grew upon him.
He went out into the little garden and lifted the rude
implement of cultivation in his hand. He had not
driven it many times into the soft clay of the cabbage-
bed when a touch of peace seemed to fall upon him.
The heavy burden that had occupied his mind was fall-
ing into the little trench that was being made by the
He had become so interested in his task that he had
not heard his mother go upstairs nor seen Marse Pren-
dergast emerge from the house some moments later.
The old shuiler called out to him in her high, shrill
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 119
" That's right, John! That's right! 'Tis glad my-
self is to see you doing something useful at last. Dig-
ging the cabbage-plot, me sweet gosoon, and your father
in Garradrimna be this time with his pint in his hand ! ' '
Mrs. Brennan had followed her to the door, and her
cruelty was stirred to give the sore cut by reviving the
"That's the lad! That's the lad! But mind you
don't dig too far, for you could never tell what you'd
find. And indeed it would be the quare find you might
He laughed as she said this, for he remembered that,
as a child she had entertained him with the strangest
stories of leprecauns and their crocks of gold, which were
hidden in every field. The old woman passed out on
the road, and his mother came over to him with a pitiful
look of sadness in her eyes.
"Now, John, I'm surprised at you to have a spade in
your hand before Marse Prendergast and all. That's
your father's work and not yours, and you with your
The speech struck him as being rather painful to hear,
and he felt as if he should like to say: "Well, what is
good enough for my father ought to be good enough
for me!" But this, to his mother, might have looked
like a back-answer, a piece of impertinence, so he merely
stammered in confusion: "Oh, sure I was only exercis-
ing and amusing myself. When this little bit is finished
I'm going down to have a read by the lake."
"That's right, 'John !" she said in a flat, sad voice,
and turned back to her endless labor.
He stopped, his hands folded on the handle-end of the
120 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
spade, and fell into a condition of dulness which even
the slightest labor of the body brings to those unaccus-
tomed to it. All things grew so still of a sudden.
There seemed to come a perfect lull in the throbbing,
nervous realization of his brain from moment to mo-
ment. ... He felt himself listening for the hum of his
mother's machine, but it was another sound that came
to him the desolating sound of her lonely sobbing. She
was crying to herself there now in the sewing-room and
mourning forever as if for some lost thing. . . . There
were her regular sobs, heavy with an eternal sadness as
he listened to them. Into such acute self-consciousness
had his mood now moved that he could not imagine her
crying as being connected with anything beyond him-
self. He was the perpetual cause of all her pain. . . .
If only she would allow him, for short spaces, to go out
of her mind they might both come into the enjoyment
of a certain freedom, but sometimes the most trivial
incident seemed to put her out so. This morning she
had been in such heart and humor, and last night so
interested in the concert, and here now she was in tears.
It could not have been the visit of Marse Prendergast
or her talk, for there was nobody so foolish, he thought,
as to take any notice of either. It must have been the
digging and the fact that people passing the road might
see him. Now was not that foolish of her, for did not
Father O'Keeffe himself dig in his own garden with his
own two blessed hands. . . . ? But he must bend in
obedience to her desire, and go walking like a leisured
gentleman through the valley. He was looking forward
to this with dread, for, inevitably, it must throw him
back upon his own thoughts.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
As he came down past the school he could hear a dull
drone from among the trees. The school had not yet
settled down to the business of the day, and the scholars
were busy with the preparation of their lessons. John
stopped by the low wall, which separated its poor play-
ground from the road, to gaze across at the hive of in-
tellect. Curious that his mother should now possess a
high contempt for this rude academy where he had been
introduced to learning. But he had not yet parted com-
pany with his boyhood. He was remembering the com-
panions of his schooldays and how this morning prep-
aration had been such a torture. Still moving about
the yard before his formal entrance to the school, was
Master Donnellan. As John Brennan saw him now he
appeared as one misunderstood by the people of the val-
ley, and yet as one in whom the lamp of the intellect
was set bright and high. But beyond this immediate
thought of him he appeared as a man with overthrown
ambitions and shattered dreams, whose occasional out-
bursts of temper for these reasons had often the effect
of putting him at enmity with the parents of the chil-
Master Donnellan was a very slave of the ferrule.
He had spent his brains in vain attempts to impart some
knowledge to successive generations of dunces of the
fields. It had been his ambition to be the means of
producing some great man whose achievements in the
world might be his monument of pride. But no pupil
of his in the valley school had ever arisen as a great man.
Many a time, in the long summer evenings, when the
day would find it hard to disappear from Ireland, he
would come quietly to the old school with a step of
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
reverence, and going into the moldy closet, where all
the old roll-books and register-books were kept, take
them down one by one and go searching through the
lists of names. His mind would be filled with the ring-
ing achievements of men who had become notable in the
world. . . . Not a trace of any of those famous names
could he find here, however far he might search in all
the musty books until the day had faded. . . . Then he
would rely upon his memory in a further aspect of his
search. He had not even produced a local great man.
In his time no priests had come out of the valley. There
was a strange thing now no priests, and it was a thing
that was always said by angry mothers and fathers when
they called at the valley school to attack him for his
conduct towards their children "And you never to
have made a priest or a ha'porth!" It was not the un-
reasonableness of their words that annoyed him, but
rather the sense of impotence with which they filled
him. ... If only it would happen that he could say
he had produced one famous man. A priest would be
sufficiently fine to justify him in the eyes of the valley.
It was so strange that, although he had seen many
young men move towards high attainment, some fatality
had always happened to avert his poor triumph. He
thought of young Brennan as his present hope and
John went on towards the lake. When he came to
the water's edge he was filled with a sense of peace. He
sat down beneath one of the fir trees and, in the idle-
ness of his mood, began to pick up some of the old dried
fir-cones which were fallen beneath. They appeared to
him as things peculiarly bereft of any sap or life. He
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
gathered until he had a handful and then cast them from
him one by one on the surface of the water. It seemed
a surprising thing that the small eddies which the light
splashes of them made rolled distantly to the shores
of the little lake. He began to wonder would his life
come to be like that a small thing to be flung by the
Hand of Fate and creating its little ripple to eddy to
the far shores of Time.
"Me sound man, John!"
It was the voice of Shamesy Golliher coming from be-
hind a screen of reeds where he had been fishing.
" 'Tis a warm day/' he said, pushing back his faded
straw hat from his brow, ' ' Glory be to the Son of God ! ' '
This was a pious exclamation, but the manner of its
intonation seemed to make it comical for John Brennan
laughed and Shamesy Golliher laughed.
"Now isn't them the clever, infernal little gets of
fishes? The divil a one can I catch only the size of
pinkeens, and I wanting to go to Garradrimna with a
hell of a thirst!"
"And is that all you have troubling you?" said John.
"Is that all? Begad if it isn't enough after last
night. If the priests knew all the drink that bees drunk
at concerts in aid of Temperance Halls you wouldn't see
a building of that kind in the country.
"Now down with me last night to the concert with
me two lovely half-pints of malt. Well, to make a long
story short, I finished one of them before I went in. I
wasn't long inside, and I think it was while Harry Hoi-
ton was singing, when who should give me a nudge only
Hubert Manning: 'Are ye coming out, Shamesy?' says
he. He had two bottles of stout and a naggin, and
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
we had them finished before Harry Holton had done his
first song. I was striving for to crush back into me
place when who should I knock against only Farrell
McGuinness? He had a lot of bottles in his pocket.
He seemed to have about four dozen of stout on his
person, according to the noise he made : ' For the honor
of Jases/ says he, 'will you not spill me porter?' But
then when he saw it was me he had in it : ' Come to hell
oura this/ says he, 'into the night air/ I was so glad
to see that he hadn't broken his bottles, I introduced
th 'other half pint. Sure he nearly swallowed it, bottle
and all. Then we fell to at the porter, and such a
bloody piece of drinking never was seen. And it wasn't
that we had plenty of drink of our own, but strange
people were coming running through the wood putting
half-pints and naggins into our mouths just as if we
were little sucking childer. I fell a corpse under a tree
about eleven. I don't know how long I was insensible,
but when I came to I had a quare feeling that I was in
Hell or some place. I wasn't able to move an inch, I
was that stiff and sick. . . . Somewhere near me I could
hear two whispering and hugging in the darkness.
They were as close as ever they could be. I couldn't
stir to get a better look for fear they'd hear me. But
there was quare goings on I can tell you, things I
wouldn't like to mention or describe. Whisper, I'm
near sure it was Ulick Shannon and the schoolmistress,
Miss Kerr, or whatever the hell her name is ."
Shamesy's sickening realism was brought to an
abrupt end by the ducking of his cork, which had been
floating upon the surface of the water. There was a
short moment of joyous excitement and then a dying
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 125
perch lay on the grass by the side of John Brennan.
He viewed with sorrow that clean, shining thing wrig-
gling there beneath the high heavens. Its end had
come through the same pitiful certainty as that of the
rabbits which had aforetime contributed to the thirst
of Shamesy, who presently said with delight:
"Now I have the correct number. I can sell them for
sixpence in "The World's End/ and you'd never know
the amount of good drink that sixpence might bring. "
He prepared to take his departure, but ere he went
across the hill he turned to John and said :
"That was the fine walk you were doing with Ulick
Shannon's girl this morning? She was in great form
after last night. ' '
He said it with such a leer of suggestion as cast John,
still blushing, back into his gloom.
LAST night and this morning, what Shamesy Golliher
had told him of last night and said of the walk
with Rebecca this morning all this was now recurring
clearly to his mind, although Shamesy had long since
disappeared across the sweep of the hill on his way to
Mrs. Brennan had so recently reminded her son of his
coming exaltation that the suggestion was now com-
pelling him beyond the battle of his thought to picture
himself as a priest ordained. Yet an immense gulf of
difference still separated him from the condition of
Father O'Keeffe, for instance. His thought had been
further helped to move this way by the sudden appear-
ance of Father O'Keeffe riding along The Road of the
John did not see the man as he really was. Yet it
was the full reality of him that was exercising a sub-
conscious influence upon his mind and helping, with
other things, to turn his heart away from the priest-
Father O'Keeffe came directly from that class so im-
portant in Ireland the division of the farmer class
which has come to be known as "The Grabbers." The
word "grabber" had not been invented to describe a
new class, but rather to denote the remarkable character
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
of a class already in existence. That was their inner-
most nature, these farmers, to be close-fisted and to
guard with an almost savage tenacity those possessions
to which they had already attained. It was notable
also that they were not too careful or particular as to
the means they employed to come into possession. This
was the full answer to the question why so many of
them put a son on for the Church. It was a double rea-
son, to afford a means of acquiring still further and to
be as an atonement in the sight of Heaven for the means
they had used in acquiring thus far. This at once ap-
peared amazingly true if one applied it to the case of
Father O'Keeffe, who could on occasion put on such a
look of remoteness from this world, that it was difficult
to set about analyzing him by any earthly standard.
Yet, among all the pedigrees she had read for him, as a
notable example in Mrs. Brennan's crowd of examples,
had continually appeared and re-appeared this family
of O'Keeffe. His mother had always endeavored to fix
firmly in his mind the wonder of their uprise. It was
through the gates of the Church that the O'Keeffes had
gone to their enjoyment. No doubt they had denied
themselves to educate this Louis O'Keeffe who had be-
come P.P. of Garradrimna, but their return had been
more than satisfying. There was now no relation of his
to the most distant degree of blood who did not possess
great comfort and security in the land.
At bottom Father O'Keeffe was still a man of the
clay and loved the rich grass and the fine cattle it pro-
duced. He had cattle in every quarter of the parish.
Men bought them and saw to their fattening and sold
them for him, even going so far as adding the money
US THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
to his account in the bank. He had most discreetly used
a seeming unworldliness to screen his advance upon
the ramparts of Mammon. Citing the examples of
Scripture, he consorted with notable, though suddenly
converted, sinners, and, when some critic from among
the common people was moved to speak his mind as
one of the converted sinners performed a particularly
unscrupulous stroke of business, he was immediately
silenced by the unassailable spectacle of his parish priest
walking hand in hand with the man whose actions he
was daring to question. The combination was of mu-
tual benefit; the gombeen man, the auctioneer and the
publican were enabled to proceed with their swindle of
the poor by maintaining his boon companionship.
Thus, while publicly preaching the admonishing text
of the camel and the rich man and the needle's eye,
Father O'Keeffe was privately engaged in putting him-
self in such a condition that the task of negotiating the
needle's eye might be as difficult to him as the camel.
He went daily for a walk, reading his office, and re-
turned anxiously scanning stock exchange quotations
and letters from cattle salesmen in Dublin. But in
spite of this he was a sportsman, and thought nothing
of risking a ten-pound note upon a horse or a night's
When he first came to the parish his inclinations were
quickly determined. In the whirl of other interests
cards had fallen into disuse in Garradrimna. They had
come to be considered old-fashioned, but now suddenly
they became "all the rage." Old card-tables were re-
discovered and renewed, and it was said that Tommy
Williams was compelled to order several gross of play-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 129
ing cars for, what the " elite" of the parish did, the
"commonality" must needs follow and do. Thus was
a public advantage of doubtful benefit created; for la-
boring men were known to lose their week 's wages to the
distress of their wives and children. ... At the "gor-
geous card-plays" never an eyelid was lifted when
Father O'Keeffe "renayged."
These took place in the houses of shopkeepers and
strong farmers, and were cultivated to a point of ex-
cessive brilliance. Ancient antagonists of the tongue
met upon this new field, and strategic attempts were
made to snatch Father O'Keeffe as a prize of battle.
Thus was an extravagant sense of his value at once
created and, as in all such cases, the worst qualities of
the man came to be developed. His natural snobbish-
ness, for one thing, which led him to associate a great
deal with the gilded youth of Garradrimna officials of
the Union and people of that kind who had got their po-
sitions through every effort of bribery and corruption.
At athletic sports or coursing matches you would see
him among a group of them, while they smoked stink-
ing "Egyptian" cigarettes up into his face.
Yet it must not be thought that Father O'Keeffe
neglected the ladies. In evenings in the village he
might be seen standing outside the worn drapery coun-
ters back-biting between grins and giggles with the
women of the shops. This curious way of spending the
time had once led an irreverent American to describe
him as "the flirtatious shop-boy of Garradrimna."
His interest in the female sex often led him upon ex-
peditions beyond the village. Many a time he might be
seen riding his old, fat, white horse, so strangely named,
130 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"King Billy," down some rutted boreen on the way to
a fanner's house where there were big daughters with
weighty fortunes. Those were match-making expedi-
tions when he had come to tell them of his brother Robert
O'Keeffe and his broad acres. . . . While "King
Billy " was comforting himself with a plentiful feed of
oats, he would be sitting in the musty parlor with the
girl and her mother, taking wine and smoking cigars,
which were kept in every house since it had come to be
known that Father O'Keeffe was fond of them. He
generally smoked a good few at a sitting, and those he
did not consume he carried away in his pocket for fu-
ture use in his den at the Presbytery.
"Isn't Father O'Keeffe, God bless him, the walking
terror for cigars?" was all the comment ever made
upon this extraordinary habit.
Robert O'Keeffe, in the intentions of his brother, was
a much-married man, for there was not a house in the
parish holding a marriageable girl into which Father
O 'Keeffe had not gone to get him a match. He had en-
larged upon the excellence of his brother, upon his
manners and ways and the breadth of his fields.
"He's the grand, fine man, is Robert," he would say,
by way of giving a final touch to the picture.
Upon those whose social standing was not a thing of
any great certitude this had always a marked effect to-
wards their own advantage and that of Father 'Keeffe.
It gave them a certain pride in their own worth to have
a priest calling attentively at the house and offering his
brother in marriage. It would be a gorgeous thing to
be married to a priest's brother, and have your brother-
in-law with power in his hands to help you out of many
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 131
a difficulty. He never inquired after the cattle their
fathers were grazing free of charge for him until he
would be leaving the house.
John Brennan followed the black figure upon the
white horse down all The Road of the Dead until Father
O'Keeffe had disappeared among the trees which sur-
rounded the Schools of Tullahanogue, where he was
making a call.
JOHN now saw Ulick Shannon coming towards him
across the Hill of Annus. It was strange that he
should be appearing now whose presence had just been
created by the Rabelaisian recital of Shamesy Golliher.
As he came along boldly his eyes roamed cheerfully over
the blue expanse of water and seemed to catch some-
thing there which moved him to joyous whistling. John
Brennan felt a certain amount of reserve spring up be-
tween them as they shook hands. . . . For a moment
that seemed to lengthen out interminably the two young
men were silent. The lake was without a ripple in the
intense calm of the summer day. . . . Suddenly it re-
flected the movement of them walking away, arm in
arm, towards the village.
It was high noontide when they reached Garra-
drimna. The Angelus was ringing. Men had turned
them from their various occupations to bend down for
a space in prayer. The drunkards had put away the
pints from their mouths in reverence. The seven sleek
publicans were coming to their doors with their hats in
their hands, beating their breasts in a frenzy of zeal and
genuflecting. Yet, upon the appearance of the students,
a different excitement leaped up to animate them. They
began to hurry their prayers, the words becoming
jumbled pell mell in their mouths as they cleared a
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
way for their tongues to say to one another the thing
they wanted to say of the two young men.
By their God, there was John Brennan and Ulick
Shannon coming into Garradrimna in the middle of the
day. To drink, they at once supposed. Their tongues
had been finding fine exercise upon Ulick Shannon for
a considerable time, but it was certainly a comfort to
have the same to say of John Brennan. A clerical
student coming up the street with a Dublin scamp.
That was a grand how-d'ye-do! But sure they sup-
posed, by their God again, that it was only what she de-
served (they were referring to Mrs. Brennan).
Her mention at once brought recollection of her story,
and it came to be discussed there in the heat of the day
until the lonely woman, who was still crying probably
as she sat working by her machine in the little house in
the valley, became as a corpse while the vultures of
Garradrimna circled round it flapping great wings in
The students strode on, reciting the Angelus beneath
their breaths with a devotion that did not presently give
place to any worldly anxiety. They were doing many
things now, as if they formed a new personality in
which the will and the inclination of each were merged.
They turned into McDermott's, and it seemed their col-
lective intention from the direction they took upon en-
tering the shop to take refuge in the retirement of the
particular portion known as Connellan's office. It was
the place where Mick Connellan, the local auctioneer,
transacted business on Fridays. On all other days it
was considered the more select and secluded portion of
this publichouse. But when they entered it was oc-
134 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
cupied. Padna Padna, the ancient drunkard, was sit-
ting by the empty grate poking the few drawn corks in
it as if they were coals. He was speaking to himself
in mournful jeremiads, and after the fashion of one
upon whom a great sorrow has fallen down.
"Now what the hell does he want with his mission,
and it too good we are ? A mission, indeed, for to make
us pay him money every night, and the cosht of every-
thing, drink and everything. He, he, he! To pay the
price of a drink every night to hear the missioners de-
nounce drink. Now that's the quarest thing ever any
one heard. To go pay the price of a drink for hearing
a man that doesn't even know the taste of it say that
drink is not good for the human soul. Begad Father
'Keeffe is the funny man ! ' '
After this fashion did Padna Padna run on in
soliloquy. He had seen many a mission come to bring,
in the words of the good missioners, "a superabundance
of grace to the parish, ' ' and seen it go without bringing
any appreciable addition of grace to him or any change
in his way of life. It seemed a pity that his tradition
had set Padna Padna down as a Christian, and would
not allow him to live his life upon Pagan lines and in
peace. The struggle which continually held occupation
of his mind was one between Christian principles and
Pagan inclinations. He now began whispering to him-
self " The Book of God! The Book of God! A fel-
low's name bees written in the Book of God!" ... So
absorbed was he in his immense meditation that he had
hardly noticed the entry of the students. But as he
became aware of their presence he stumbled to his feet
and gripping John Brennan by the arm whispered
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 135
tensely: "Isn't that a fact, young fellow, that one's
name bees down there always, and what one does, and
that it's never blotted out?"
"It is thus we are told," said John, speaking dog-
matically and as if he were repeating a line out of the
Padna Padna, as he heard these words and recognized
the voice of their speaker, put on what was really his
most gruesome expression. He stripped his shrunken
gums in a ghastly little smile, and a queer ' ' Tee-Hee ! ' '
issued from his furrowed throat. . . . Momentarily his
concern for Eternity was forgotten in a more immediate
urgency of this world. He gripped John still more
tightly and in a higher whisper said: "Are ye able to
It was a strange anti-climax and at once betrayed his
sudden descent in the character of his meditation, from
thinking of what the Angel had written of him to his
immortal longing for what had determined the character
of that record regarding immortality.
"Yes, I'll stand," said Ulick, breaking in upon John
Brennan's reply to Padna Padna and pushing the bell.
Mr. McDermott himself, half drunk and smelling of
bad whiskey, came in and soon the drinks were before
them. New life seemed to come pushing into the an-
cient man as he took his "half one." He looked up in
blind thankfulness into their faces, his eyes running
water and his mouth dribbling like that of a young child.
. . . His inclinations were again becoming rapidly
Pagan. . . . From smiling dumbly he began to screech
with laughter, and moved from the room slowly tapping
his way with his short stick. ... He was going forth to
136 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
fresh adventures. Spurred on by this slight addition
of drink he would be encouraged to enter the other six
publichouses of Garradrirnna, and no man could tell
upon what luck he might happen to fall. So fortunate
might his half-dozen expeditions prove that he would
probably return to the house of the good woman who
was his guardian, led by Shamesy Golliher, or some other
one he would strike up with in the last dark pub, as if
he were a toddling infant babbling foolish nonsense
about all the gay delights which had been his of old.
The mad drives from distant villages upon his outside
car, his passengers in the same condition as himself a
state of the wildest abandon, and dwelling exultingly
in that moment wherein they might make fitting models
for a picture by Jack B. Yeats.
Ulick and John were now alone. The day outside was
hot and still upon the dusty street, but this office of
Connellan's was a cool place like some old cellar full of
forgotten summers half asleep in wine. . . . They were
entering still deeper into the mood of one another. . . .
Ulick had closed the door when Padna Padna had passed
through, tapping blindly as he moved towards the far
places of the village. He would seem to have gone for
no other purpose than to publish broadcast the presence
of Ulick Shannon and John Brennan together in Mc-
Dermott's, and they drinking. For now the door of
Connellan's office was being opened and closed every few
minutes. People were calling upon the pretense of look-
ing for other people, and going away leaving the door
open wide behind them so that some others might come
also and see for themselves the wonderful thing that was
happening. . . . Padna Padna was having such a time
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 137
as compared favorably with the high times of old. A
" half -one" of malt from every man he brought to see
the sight was by no means a small reward. And so he
was coming and going past the door like a sentry on
guard of some great treasure which increased in value
from moment to moment. He was blowing upon his
fingers and tapping his lips and giggling and screeching
with merriment down in his shivering frame.
And most wonderful of all, the two young men who
were creating all this excitement were quite unconscious
of it. ... They were talking a great deal, but each,
as it were, from behind the barricade of his personality,
for each was now beginning for the first time to notice
a peculiar thing. They were discovering that their per-
sonalities were complementary. John lacked the gift,
which was Ulick 's, of stating things brilliantly out of
life and experience and the views of those modern au-
thors whom he admired. On the other hand, he seemed
to possess a deeper sense of the relative realities of cer-
tain things, a faculty which sprang out of his ecclesias-
tical training and which held no meaning for Ulick, who
spoke mockingly of such things. Ulick skimmed lightly
over the surface of life in discussing it; John was in-
clined to plow deeply.
Suddenly a desire fell upon John to hear Ulick dis-
cuss again those matters he had talked of at the " North
Leinster Arms" in Ballinamult. It was very curious
that this should be the nature of his thoughts now, this
inclination towards things which from him should al-
ways have remained far distant and unknown. . . . But
it may have been that some subtle impulse had stirred
in him, and that he now wished to see whether the out-
138 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
look of Ulick had changed in any way through his ru-
mored friendship with Rebecca Kerr. Would it be a
cleaner thing and purified through power of that girl?
He fondly fancied that no thought at all could be soiled
within the splendid precinct of her presence.
Josie Guinan, the new barmaid of McDermott's, came
in to attend them with other and other drinks. Her
bosom was attractive and ample, although her hair was
still down upon her back in rich brown plaits. . . . She
dallied languorously within the presence of the two
young men. . . . Ulick began to tell some of the stories
he had told to Mary Essie, and she stood even as brazenly
enjoying them with her back to the door closed behind
her. Then the two came together and whispered some-
thing, and a vulgar giggle sprang up between them.
And to think that this was the man to whom Rebecca
Kerr might be giving the love of her heart. ... If John
had seen as much of life as the other he would have
known that Ulick was the very kind of man who, at all
times, has most strongly appealed to women. Yet it was
in this moment and in this place that he fell in love with
Rebecca. . . . He became possessed of an infinite will-
ingness to serve and protect her, and it was upon the
strength of his desire that he arose.
Through all this secret, noble passage, Ulick remained
laughing as at some great joke. He, too, was coming
into possession of a new joy, for he was beginning to
glimpse the conflagration of another's soul. Out of sheer
devilment, and in conspiracy with Josie Guinan, he had
caused John Brennan's drink, the small, mild measure
of port wine, to be dosed with flaming whiskey. Even
the wine in the frequency of its repetition had already
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 139
been getting the better of him. They had been hours
sitting here, and outside the day was fading.
John began to stutter now in the impotence of degra-
dation which was upon him. His thoughts were all
burning into one blazing thought. The small room
seemed suddenly to cramp and confine his spirit as if it
were a prison cell. . . . And Ulick was still smiling that
queer smile of his with his thick red lips and sunken eyes.
He sprang towards the door and, turning the handle,
rushed out into the air. . . . Soon he was fleeing as if
from some Unknown Force, staggering between the rows
of the elms which stretched all along the road into the
valley. It had rained a shower and the strong, young
leaves held each its burden of pearly drops. A light
wind now stirred them and like an aspergillus they flung
a blessing down upon him as he passed. And ever did
he mutter her name to himself as he stumbled on :
11 Rebecca Kerr, Rebecca Kerr, I love you, Rebecca,
I love you surely ! Oh, my dear Rebecca ! ' '
She was moving before him, with her hair all shining
through the twilight.
* ' Oh, dear Rebecca ! I love you ! Oh, my dear ! ' '
He turned The Road of the Dead and down by the
lake, where he lay in the quiet spot from which Ulick
Shannon had taken him away to Garradrimna. There
he remained until far on in the evening, when his
mother, concerned for his welfare, came to look for him.
She found him sleeping by the lake.
She had no notion of how he had passed the evening.
Her imagination was, after all, only a very small thing
and worked rigorously within the romantic confines of
the holy stories which were her continual reading.
140 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
When she had awakened him she asked a characteristic
"And I suppose, John, you're after seeing visions and
things have appeared to you?"
"Yes, mother, I have seen a vision, I think," he said,
as he opened his eyes and blinked stupidly at the lake.
He was still midway between two conditions, but he was
not noticeable to her, who could not have imagined the
These were the only words he spoke to her before he
went to bed.
Back in McDermott's a great crowd thronged the pub-
lic bar. Every man seemed to be in high glee and a
hum of jubilation hung low between them. A momen-
tous thing had happened, and it was of this great event
they were talking. John Brennan had left the house
end he reeling. Men from the valley foregathered in
one group and, as each new-comer arrived, the news was
re-broken. It was about the best thing that had ever
happened. The sudden enrichment of any of their num-
ber could not have been half so welcome in its impor-
Padna Padna and Shamesy Golliher were standing in
one corner taking sup for sup.
"Damn it, but it was one of the greatest days ever I
seen in Garradrimna since the ould times. It was a pity
you missed of it," said Padna Padna. "If you were to
"Sure I'm after seeing him, don't I tell ye, lying a
corpse be the lake."
"A corpse be the lake. He, he, he! Boys-a-day!
MRS. BRENNAN, although she pondered it deeply,
had made no advance towards full realization of
her son's condition by the lakeside. Yet John felt
strangely diffident about appearing before her next morn-
ing. It seemed to him that another attack had been made
upon the bond between them. But when at last he came
into the sewing-room she was smiling, although there
was a sinking feeling around his heart as he looked upon
her. Yet this would pass, he hoped, when they began
The children were going the road to school, and it
was the nature of Mrs. Brennan that she must needs
be making comment upon what was passing before her
"God help the poor, little girls," she cried, "sure 'tis
the grand example they're being set by that new one,
Miss Kerr, with her quare dresses and her light ways.
They say she was out half the night after the concert
with Ulick Shannon, arid that Mrs. McQoldrick and the
Sergeant are in terror of their lives for fear of robbers
or the likes, seeing that they have to leave the door on
the latch for her to come in at any time she pleases from
her night-walking. And the lad she bees with that's
after knocking about Dublin and couldn't be good any-
way. But sure, be the same token, there's a touch of
Dublin about her too. How well she wouldn't give me
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
the making of her new dress? But I suppose I'm old-
fashioried in my cut. Old-fashioned, how are ye; and
I buying Weldon's Ladies' Journal every week? But
of course she had to go to Dublin to be in the tip of
the fashion and see what they wear in Graftori Street
in the lamplight. She had to get an outfit of immodest
fol-the-dols to be a disgrace in the chapel every Sun-
day, and give room to the missioners when they come
to say things that may have an injurious effect upon
poor dressmakers like myself who strive to earn a living
as decently as we can."
This harangue was almost unnoticed by John Brennan.
It was a failing of his mother to be always speaking thus
in terms of her trade. He knew that if Miss Kerr had
come here with her new dress, fine words and encomiums
would now be spoken of her in this room. But it was
his mother who was speaking and he was thinking of
the girl who had filled his vision.
And his mother was still talking:
"That Ulick Shannon, I hate him. I wish you
wouldn't let yourself be seen along with him. It is not
good for you, avic mackree. Of course I know the kind
of talk you do be having, son. About books and classes
and the tricks and pranks of you at college. Ah, dear,
I know; but I'd rather to God it was any other one in
the whole world. I'm fearing in me heart that there's
a black, black side to him. It's well known that he
bees always drinking in Garradrimna, arid now see how
he's after striking up with the schoolmistress one.
Maybe 'tis what he'd try to change you sometime, for
as sure as you're there I'm afraid and afraid. And
to think after all I have prayed for you through all the
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 143
years, upon me two bare knees in the lonely nights, if
an affliction should come."
"What affliction, mother? What is it?"
He came nearer, and gazing deep into her face saw
that there were tears in her eyes. Her eyes were shin-
ing like deep wells.
"Ah, this, son. If it should ever come that you did
not think well to do me wish, after all I have done "
She checked herself of a sudden, and it was some
moments before John replied. He, too, was thinking of
Ulick Shannon. There was a side to his friend that he
did not like. Yesterday he had not liked him. There
were moments when he had hated him. But that mood
and the reason for it seemed to have passed from him
during the night. It was a far thing now, and Ulick
Shannon was as he had been to John, who could not
think ill of him. Yet it was curious that his mother
should be hinting at things which, if he allowed his mind
to dwell upon them at all, must bring back his feelings
of yesterday. . . . But he felt that he must speak well
of his friend.
"Ah, sure there is nothing, mother. You are only
fancying queer things. At college I have to meet hun-
dreds of fellows. He 's not a bad chap, and I like speak-
ing to him. It is lonely here without such intercourse.
He realizes keenly how people are always talking of him,
how the smallest action of his is construed and con-
structed in a hundred different ways, until he's driven
to do wild things out of very defiance to show what he
thinks of the mean people of the valley and their opinion
of him "
"They're not much, I know "
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"But at heart, I think, he's somehow like myself, and
I can 't help liking him. ' '
"All the same he shouldn't be going with a girl and,
especially, a little chit of a schoolmistress like this one,
for I can't stand her."
Why did she continue to hammer so upon the pulse of
his thought? . . . With bowed head he began to drift
out of the room. Why had she driven him to think now
of Rebecca Kerr? . . . He was already in the sunlight.
To-day he would not go towards the lake, but up
through the high green fields of Scarden. He was tak-
ing The Imitation of Christ with him, and, under the
shade of some noble tree, it was his intention to turn
his thoughts to God and away from the things of life.
It seemed grand to him, with a grandeur that had
more than a touch of the color of Heaven, to be ascend-
ing cool slopes through the green, soft grass and to be
looking down upon the valley at its daily labor. The
potatoes and turnips still required attention. He saw
men move patiently behind their horses over the broken
fields of red earth beneath the fine, clear clay, and
thought that here surely was the true vocation of him
who would incline himself unto God. . . . But how un-
true was this fancy when one came to consider the real
personality of these tillers of the soil? There was not
one of whom Mrs. Brennan could not tell an ugly story.
Not one who did not consider it his duty to say un-
charitable things of Ulick Shannon and Rebecca Kerr.
Not one who would not have danced with gladness if a
great misfortune had befallen John Brennan, and made
a holiday in Garradrimna if anything terrible had hap-
pened to any one within the circle of their acquaintance.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 145
John Brennan 's attention was now attracted by a man
who moved with an air of proprietorship among a field
of sheep. He was a tall man in black, moving darkly
among the white crowd of the sheep, counting them
leisurely and allowing his mind to dwell upon the pag-
eant of their perfect whiteness. He seemed to be reck-
oning their value as the pure yield of his pastures. Here
was another aspect of the fields. . . . The man in black
was coming towards him with long strides.
It took John some moments to realize that he had
strayed into the farm of the Shannons and that this was
Myles Shannon who was coming over to meet him. . . .
He was a fine, clean man seen here amid the rich sur-
roundings of his own fields. But he had advanced far
into bachelorhood, and the russet was beginning to go
out of his cheeks. It seemed a pity of the world that he
had not married, for just there, hidden behind the bil-
lowy trees, was the fine house to which he might have
brought home a wife and reared up a family to love and
honor him in his days. But his romance had been shat-
tered by a piece of villainy which had leaped out from
the darkness of the valley. And now he was living here
alone. But he was serenely independent, exhibiting a
fine contempt, as well he might, for the mean strugglers
around him. He took his pleasures here by himself in
this quiet house among the trees. Had he been asked to
name them, he could have told you in three words
books and drink. Not that they entered into his life to
any great extent, for he was a wise man even in his in-
dulgence. . . . But who was there to see him or know
since he did not choose to publish himself in Garra-
drimna? And there was many a time when he worked
146 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
himself into a great frenzy while brooding over the story
of his dead brother Henry, and his own story, and Nan
Byrne. . . . Even now he was thinking darkly of Nan
Byrne as he came forward to meet her son across his own
" Good-day, Mr. Brennan!" he said affably. He had
no personal grudge against this young man, but his
scheme of revenge inevitably included him, for it was
through John Brennan, her son, that Nan Byrne now
hoped to aspire, and it was him she hoped to embody as
a monument of her triumph over destructive circum-
stances before the people of the valley.
John went forward and shook the hand of Mr. Shan-
non with deference.
A fine cut of a man, surely, this Myles Shannon, stand-
ing here where he might be clearly viewed. He ap-
peared as a survival from the latter part of the Victorian
era. He was still mutton-chopped and mustachioed
after the fashion of those days. He wore a long-tailed
black coat like a morning-coat. His waistcoat was of
the same material. Across the expanse of it extended a
wide gold chain, from which dangled a bunch of heavy
seals. These shook and jingled with his every move-
ment. His trousers were of a dark gray material, with
stripes, which seemed to add to the height and erectness
of his figure. His tall, stiff collar corrected the thought-
ful droop of his head, and about it was tastefully fixed
a wide black tie of shiny silk which reached down under-
neath his low-cut waistcoat. His person was sur-
mounted by an uncomfortable-looking bowler hat with
a very hard, curly brim.
When he smiled, as just now, his teeth showed in even,
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 147
fine rows and exhibited some of the cruelty of one who
has allowed his mind to dwell darkly upon a passionate
purpose. But the ring of his laugh was hearty enough
and had the immediate effect of dispelling suspicions of
any sinister purpose.
He said he was glad to see how his casual suggestion,
made upon the day they had journeyed down from Dub-
lin together, had borne fruit, that Mr. Brennan and his
nephew, Ulick, had so quickly become friends.
John thanked him, and began to speak in terms of
praise about Ulick Shannon.
Mr. Shannon again bared his even, white teeth in a
smile as he listened. ... A strong friendship, with its
consequent community of inclinations, had already been
established. And he knew his nephew.
"He's a clever chap, I'll admit, but he's so damned
erratic. He seems bent upon crushing the experience of
a lifetime into a few years. Why I'm a man, at the
ripened, mellow period of life, and it's a fact that he
could teach me things about Dublin and all that."
John Brennan was uncertain in what way he should
confirm this, but at last he managed to stammer out:
"Ulick is very clever!"
"He's very fond of Garradrimna, and I think he's
very fond of the girls."
"It's so dull around here compared with Dublin."
John appeared a fool by the side of this man of the
world, who was searching him with a look as he spoke
"It's all right for a young fellow to gain his experi-
ence as early as he can, but he's a bit too fond of his
pleasure. He's going a bit too far."
148 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
John put on a strained look of advocacy, but he spoke
"He's not a doctor yet, and even then his living would
not be assured ; and do ye know what he had the cheek to
come telling me the other night
* ' ' I 've got infernally fond of that little girl, ' he says.
" 'What girl?' I asked in amazement.
" 'Why, that schoolmistress Rebecca Kerr. I'm
"gone" about her. I'm in love with her. She's not at
all like any of the others.' "
Myles Shannon, with his keen eyes, saw the sudden
light of surprise that leaped into the eyes of John Bren-
nan. The passion of his hatred and the joy of his
cruelty were stirred, and he went on to develop the plot
of the story he had invented.
"And what for," said I to him, "are you thinking of
any girl in that way. I, as your guardian, am able to
tell you that you are not in a position to marry. Surely
you're not going to ruin this girl, or allow her to ruin
you. Besides she is only a strolling schoolmistress from
some unknown part of Donegal, and you are one of the
Shannon family. 'But I'm "gone" about her,' was
what Ulick said. How was I to argue against such a
The color was mounting ever higher on John Bren-
But the relentless man went on playing with him.
"Of course I have not seen her, but, by all accounts,
she 's a pretty girl and possesses the usual share of allure-
ments. Is not that so ? "
"She's very nice."
"And, do you know what? It has come to me up
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 149
here, although I may seem to be a hermit among the
fields who takes no interest in the world, that you have
been seen walking down the valley road together. D'ye
remember yesterday morning, eh?"
John was blushing still, and a kind of sickly smile
made his fine face look queer. All kinds of expressions
were trying to form themselves upon his tongue, yet not
one of them could he manage to articulate.
"Not that I blame a young fellow, even one intended
for the Church, if he should have a few inclinations that
way. But I can see that you are the good friend of my
nephew, and indeed it would be a pity if anything came
to spoil that friendship, least of all a bit of a girl. . . .
And both of you being the promising young men you
are. ... It would be terrible if anything like that
should come to pass."
Even to this John could frame no reply. But the
ear of Mr. Shannon did not desire it, for his eye had
seen all that he wished to know. He beheld John Bren-
nan shivering as within the cold and dismal shadows of
fatality. . . . They spoke little more until they shook
hands again, and parted amid the dappled grass.
To Myles Shannon the interview had been an extraor-
dinary success. . . . Yet, quite suddenly, he found him-
self beginning to think of the position of Rebecca Kerr.
OUTSIDE the poor round of diversions afforded by
the valley and her meetings with Ulick Shannon,
the days passed uneventfully for Rebecca Kerr. It was
a dreary kind of life, wherein she was concerned to avoid
as far as possible the fits of depression which sprang
out of the quality of her lodgings at Sergeant McGold-
She snatched a hasty breakfast early in the mornings,
scarcely ever making anything like a meal. When she
did it was always followed by a feeling of nausea as she
went on The Road of the Dead towards the valley school.
When she returned after her day 's hard work her dinner
would be half cold and unappetizing by the red ashy fire.
Mrs. McGoldrick would be in the sittting-room, where
she made clothes for the children, the sergeant himself
probably digging in the garden before the door, his tunic
open, his face sweating, and the dirty clay upon his big
boots. ... He was always certain to shout out some
idiotic salutation as she passed in. Then Mrs. McGold-
rick would be sure to follow her into the kitchen, a baby
upon her left arm and a piece of soiled sewing in her
right hand. She was always concerned greatly about
the number at school on any particular day, and how
Mrs. Wyse was and Miss McKeon, and how the average
was keeping up, and if it did not keep up to a certain
number would Mrs. Wyse 's salary be reduced, and what
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 151
was the average required for Miss McKeon to get her
salary from the Board, and so on.
Sometimes Rebecca would be so sick at heart of school
affairs and of this mean, prying woman that no word
would come from her, and Mrs. McGoldrick would drift
huffily away, her face a perfect study in disappointment.
And against those there were times when Rebecca, with
a touch of good humor, would tell the most fantastical
stories of inspectors and rules and averages and incre-
ments and pensions, Mrs. McGoldrick breathless between
her "Well, wells!" of amazement. . . . Then Rebecca
would have a rare laugh to herself as she pictured her
landlady repeating everything to the sergeant, who
would make mental comparisons the while of the curi-
ous correspondence existing between those pillars of law
and learning, the Royal Irish Constabulary, and the
National Teachers of Ireland.
Next day, perhaps, Mrs. McGoldrick would enlarge
upon the excellent and suitable match a policeman and
a teacher make, and how it is such a general thing
throughout the country. She always concluded a dis-
course of this nature by saying a thing she evidently
wished Rebecca to remember:
"Let me tell you this, now a policeman is the very
best match that any girl can make!"
And big louts of young constables would be jumping
off high bicycles and calling in the evenings. . . . This
was at the instigation of Mrs. McGoldrick, but they made
no impression whatsoever upon Rebecca, even when they
arrived in mufti.
In school the ugly, discolored walls which had been so
badly distempered by Ned Brennan ; the monotony of
152 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
the maps and desks; the constant sameness of the chil-
dren's faces. All this was infinitely wearying, but a
more subtle and powerful torment arose beyond the hum
of the children learning by heart. Rebecca always be-
came aware of it through a burning feeling at the back
of her neck. Glancing around she would see that, al-
though presumably intent upon their lessons, many eyes
were upon her, peering furtively from behind their
books, observing her, forming opinions of her, and con-
cocting stories to tell their parents when they went
home. For this was considered an essential part of their
training the proper satisfaction of their elders' curi-
osity. It was one of the reasons why the bigger girls
were sent to school. They escaped the drudgery of
house and farm because they were able to return with
fresh stories from the school every evening. Thus were
their faculties for lying and invention brought into play.
They feared Mrs. Wyse, and so these faculties came to
be trained in full strength upon Rebecca. As she moved
about the school-room, she was made the constant object
of their scrutiny. They would stare at her with their
mean, impudent eyes above the top edges of their books.
Then they would withdraw them behind the opened
pages and sneer and concoct. And it was thus the fore-
noon would pass until the half-hour allowed for recrea-
tion, when she would be thrown back upon the company
of Mrs. Wyse and Monica McKeon. No great pleasure
was in store for her here, for their conversation was
always sure to turn upon the small affairs of the valley.
There was something so ingenuous about the relations
of Rebecca and IJlick Shannon that neither of the two
women had the courage to comment upon the matter
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 155
openly. But the method they substituted was a greater
torture. In the course of half an hour they would sug-
gest a thousand hateful things.
"I heard Uliek Shannon was drunk last night, and
having arguments with people in Garradrimna, " Miss
McKeon would say.
Mrs. Wyse would snatch up the words hastily. "Is
that so? Oh, he's going to the bad. He'll never pass
his exams., never I"
" Isn't it funny how his uncle does not keep better
control of him. Why he lets him do what he likes?"
"Control, is it? It doesn't look much like control
indeed to see him encouraging his dead brother's son to
keep the company he favors. Indeed and indeed it
gives me a kind of a turn when I see him going about
with Nan Byrne's son, young John Brennan, who's going
on to be a priest. Well, I may tell you that it is 'going
on* he is, for his mother as sure as you're there'll never
see him saying his first Mass. Now I suppose the poor
rector of the college in England where he is hasn't a
notion of his antecedents. The cheek of it indeed ! But
what else could you expect from the likes of Nan Byrne ?
Indeed I have a good mind to let the ecclesiastical au-
thorities know all, and if nothing turns up from the
Hand of God to right the matter, sure I'll have to do it
myself. Bedad then I will ! ' '
"Musha, the same John Brennan doesn't look up to
much, and they say Ulick Shannon can wind him around
his little finger. He'll maybe make a lad of him before
the end of the summer holidays."
"I can't understand Myles Shannon letting them go
about together so openly unless he's enjoying the whole
154 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
thing as a sneer. But it would be more to his credit
indeed to have found other material for his fun than a
blood relation. I'm surprised at him indeed, and he
knowing what he knows about Nan Byrne and his
brother Henry. "
With slight variations of this theme falling on her
ears endlessly Rebecca was compelled to endure the tor-
ture of this half hour every day. No matter what took
place in the valley Monica would manage, somehow, to
drag the name of Ulick into it. If it merely happened
to be a copy of the Irish Independent they were looking
at, and if they came upon some extraordinary piece of
news, Monica would say:
"Just like a thing that Ulick Shannon would do, isn't
And if they came across a photo in the magazine sec-
tion, Monica would say again:
"Now wouldn't you imagine that gentleman has a
look of Ulick Shannon?"
Rebecca had become so accustomed to all this that,
overleaping its purpose, it ceased to have any consider-
able effect upon her. She had begun to care too much
for Ulick to show her affection in even the glimpse of
an aspect to the two who were trying to discover her
for the satisfaction of their spite. It was thus that she
remained a puzzle to her colleagues, and Monica in par-
ticular was at her wit's end to know what to think. At
the end of the half hour she was always in a deeper
condition of defeat than before it began, and went out to
the Boys' School with only one idea warming her mind,
that, some day, she might have the great laugh at Re-
becca Kerr. She knew that it is not possible for a
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 155
woman to hide her feelings forever, even though she
thought this one cute surely, cute beyond all the sugges-
tion of her innocent exterior.
Towards the end of each day Rebecca was thrown
altogether with the little ones who, despite all the en-
treaties of their parents, had not yet come very far away
from Heaven. She found great pleasure in their com-
pany and in their innocent stories. For example :
"Miss Kerr, I was in the wood last night. With the
big bear and the little bear in the wood. I went into
the wood, and there was the big bear walking round
and round the wood after the little bear, and the big
bear was walking round and round the wood/'
"I was in America last night, and I saw all the motor
cars ever were, and people riding on horses, and the
highest, whitest buildings ever were, and people going to
Mass big crowds of people going to Mass. ' '
"My mammy brought me into the chapel last night,
and I saw God. I was talking to God and He was ask-
ing me about you. I said: 'Miss Kerr is nice, so she
is.' I said this to God, but God did not answer me.
I asked God again did He know Miss Kerr who teaches
in the valley school, and He said He did, and I said
again: 'Miss Kerr is nice, so she is.' But He went
away and did not answer me."
Rebecca would enter into their innocence and so ex-
perience the happiest hours of the day.
She would be recalled from her rapt condition by the
harsh voice of Mrs. Wyse shouting an order to one of
the little girls in her class, this being a hint that she
herself was not attending to her business.
But soon the last blessed period of the day would
156 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
come, the half hour devoted to religious instruction.
She found a pleasure in this task, for she loved to hear
the little children at their prayers. Sometimes she
would ask them to say for her the little prayer she had
"0 God, I offer up this prayer for the poor inten-
tions of Thy servant Eebecca Kerr, that they may be
fulfilled unto the glory of Thy Holy Will. And that
being imperfect, she may approach to Thy Perfection
through the Grace and Mercy of Jesus Christ, Our
She would feel a certain happiness for a short space
after this, at least while the boisterous business of taking
leave of the school was going forward. But once upon
the road she would be meeting people who always stared
at her strangely, and passing houses with squinting win-
dows. . . . Then would come a heavy sense of depres-
sion, which might be momentarily dispelled by the ap-
pearance of John Brennan either coming or going upon
the road. For a while she had considered this happen-
ing coincidental, but of late it had been borne in upon
her that it was very curious he should appear daily
at the same time. . . . The silly boy, and he with his
grand purpose before him. . . . She would smile upon
him very pleasantly, and fall into chat sometimes, but
only for a few minutes. She looked upon herself as
being ever so much wiser. And she thought it queer
that he should find an attraction for his eyes in her form
as it moved before him down the road. She always
fancied that she felt low and mean within herself while
his eyes were upon her. . . . But he would be forever
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 157
coming out of his mother's cottage to meet her thus
upon the road.
After dinner in the house of Sergeant McGoldrick she
would betake herself to her little room. It would be
untidy after the hurry in which she had left it, and
now she would set about putting it to rights. This
would occupy her half an hour or more. Then there
would be a few letters to be written, to her people away
in Donegal and to some of the companions of her train-
ing college days. She kept up a more or less regular
correspondence with about half-a-dozen of these girls.
Her letters were all after the frivolous style of their
schooldays. To all of them she imparted the confidence
that she had met "a very nice fellow" here in Garra-
drimna, but that the place was so lonely, and how there
was "nothing like a girl friend."
"Ah, Anna," she would write, or "Lily" or "Lena,"
"There's surely nothing after all like a girl friend."
After tea she would put on one of her tidiest hats, and
taking the letters with her go towards the Post Office of
Garradrimna. This was a torture, for always the eyes
of the old, bespectacled maid were upon her, looking
into her mind, as she stood waiting for her stamps out-
side the ink-stained counter. And, further, she always
felt that the doors and windows of the village were
forever filled with eyes as she went by them. Her neck
and face would burn until she took the road that led
out past the old castle of the De Lacys.. There was a
footpath which took one to the west gate of the demesne
of the Moores. The Honorable Reginald Moore was the
modern lord of Garradrimna. It was this way she would
158 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
go, meeting all kinds of stragglers from the other end
of the parish. People she did not know and who did
not know her, queer, dark men coming into Garradrinma
through the high evening in quest of porter.
"Fine evening, miss!" they would say.
Once on the avenue her little walk became a golden
journey for Ulick always met her when she came this
way. It was their custom to meet here or on The Road
of the Dead. But this was their favorite spot, where
the avenue led far into the quiet woods. A scurrying-
away of rabbits through the undergrowth would an-
nounce their approach to one another.
Many were the happy talks they had here, of books and
of decent life beyond the boorishness of Garradrimna.
She had given him The Poems of Tennyson in exchange
for The Daffodil Fields. Tastefully illuminated in red
ink on the fly-leaf he had found her "favorite lines"
from Tennyson, whom she considered "exquisite":
"Glitter like a storm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid."
"Cursed be the gold that gilds the straightened forehead of the
"Many an evening by the waters did we watch the stately ships,
And our spirits rushed together at the touching of the lips."
These had made him smile, and then lie did not read
any more of Tennyson. . . . He was fond of telling her
about the younger Irish poets and of quoting passages
from their poems. Now it would be a line or so from
Colum or Stephens, again a verse from Seumas 'Sulli-
van or Joseph Campbell. Continually he spoke with
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 159
enthusiasm of the man they called -33. . . . She found it
difficult to believe that such men could be living in Ire-
land at the present time.
"And would you see them about Dublin?' 7
"Yes, you'd see them often."
"Real poets surely. But of course they have earthly
interests as well. One is a farmer "
This she found it hardest of all to believe, for the word
"farmer" made her see so clearly the sullen men with
the dirty beards who came in the white roads every eve-
ning to drink in Garradrimna. There was no poetry
Often they would remain talking after this fashion
until night had filled up all the open spaces of the woods.
They would feel so far away from life amid the perfect
stillness. . . . Their peace was rudely shattered one
night by a sudden breaking away from them through
the withered branches. . . . Instantly Ulick knew that
this was some loafer sent to spy on them from Garra-
drimna, and Rebecca clung to him for protection.
Occasionally through the summer a lonely wailing
had been heard in the woods of Garradrimna at the fall
of night. Men drinking in the pubs would turn to one
another and say:
"The Lord save us! Is that the Banshee I hear cry-
ing for one of the Moores? She cries like that always
when one of them dies, they being a noble family.
Maybe the Honorable Reginald is after getting his death
at last in some whore-house in London."
160 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"Arrah not at all, man, sure that's only Anthony
Shaughness and he going crying through the woods for
drink, the poor fellow!"
But the sound had ceased to disturb them for Anthony
Shaughness had found an occupation at last. This eve-
ning he came running down from the woods into Mc-
Dermott's bar, the loose soles of his boots slapping
against the cobbles of the yard. Josie Guinan went up
to him excitedly when he entered.
''Well?" This in a whisper as their heads came close
together over the counter.
' ' Gimme a drink ? I 'm choked with the running, so I
"Tell me did you see them first, or not a sup you'll
get. Don't be so smart now, Anthony Shaughness!"
"Oh, I saw them all right. Gimme the drink?"
She filled the drink, making it overflow the glass in
"Bedad I saw them all right. Heard every word
they were saying, so I did, and everything ! It was the
devil's father to find them, so it was, they were that
well hid in the woods. . . . Gimme another sup, Josie ? ' '
"Ah, but you don't know all I have to tell ye !"
Again she overflowed the glass in her mounting ex-
THE summer was beginning to wane, August having
sped to its end. The schools had given vacation,
and Rebecca Kerr had gone away from the valley to
Donegal. Ulick Shannon had returned to Dublin.
This was the uneventful season in the valley. Mrs.
Brennan, finding little to talk about, had grown quiet
in herself. Ned had taken his departure to Ballinamult,
where he was engaged in putting some lead upon the
roof of the police-barracks. He was drinking to his
heart's content, she knew, and would come home to her
without a penny saved against his long spell of idle-
ness or the coming rigors of the winter. But she was
thankful for the present that he had removed himself
from the presence of his son. It was not good for such
a son to be compelled to look upon such a father. She
had prayed for this blessing and lo ! it had come. And
it extended further. Ulick Shannon too was gone from
the valley, and so she was no longer annoyed by seeing
him in company with her son. Their friendship had
progressed through the months of July and August, and
she was aware that they had been seen together many
times in Garradrimna. She did not know the full
truth but, as on the first occasion, the lake could tell.
Rebecca Kerr was gone, and so there was no need to
speak of this strange girl for whom some wild feeling
had enkindled a flame of hatred within her. Thus was
162 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
she left in loneliness and peace to dwell upon the won-
der of her son. He seemed more real to her during
these quiet days, nearer perhaps, than he had ever been
since she had first begun to dream her great dream.
Of late he had taken to his room upstairs, where he
did a little study daily. ' ' So that it won 't be altogether
too strange when I go back again to college," he told
her on more than one occasion when she besought him
not to be blinding his eyes while there was yet leisure to
rest them. There were times during the long quiet day
in the house when her flood of love for him would so well
up within her that she would call him down for no other
reason than that she might have the great pleasure of
allowing her eyes to rest upon him for a short space only.
She would speak no word at all, so fearful would she be
of disturbing the holy peace which fell between them.
In the last week of his present stay in the valley this
happened so often that it became a little wearying to
John, who had begun to experience a certain feeling of
independence in his own mind. It pained him greatly
now that his mother should love him so. ... And there
were many times when he longed to be back in his Eng-
lish college, with his books and friends, near opportuni-
ties to escape from the influences which had conspired to
One morning, after his mother had gazed upon him in
this way, he came out of the house and leaned over the
little wicket gate to take a look at the day. It was ap-
proaching Farrell McGuinness's time to be along with
the post, and John expected him to have a letter from
the rector of the College giving some directions as to the
date of return. Yet he was not altogether so anxious
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 163
to return as he had been towards the ends of former
vacations. ... At last Farrell McGuinness appeared
around the turn of the road. His blue uniform was
dusty, and he carried his hard little cap in his hand.
He dismounted from his red bicycle and took two letters
out of his bag. He smirked obviously as he performed
this action. John glanced in excitement at the letters.
One was addressed in the handwriting of his friend
Ulick Shannon and the other in the handwriting of a
girl. It was this last one that had caused Farrell Mc-
Guinness to smirk so loudly.
'Tis you that has the times, begad!" he said to
John as he mounted his red bicycle and went on up the
road, fanning his hot brow with his hard cap.
Mrs. Brennan came to the door to hear tidings of the
letters from her son, but John was already hurrying
down through the withering garden, tearing open both
"Who are they from?" she called out.
"From Ulick Shannon."
"And th 'other one?"
"From a chap in the college," he shouted across his
shoulder, lying boldly to her for the first time in his
life. But if only she could see the confusion upon his
She went back into the sewing-room, a feeling of an-
noyance showing in the deep lines about her eyes. It
seemed strange that he had not rushed immediately into
the house to tell her what was in the letters, strange
beyond all how he had not seen his way to make that
much of her.
Down the garden John was reading Rebecca Kerr's
164 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
letter first, for it was from her that the letter from * * one
of the chaps in the college" had come.
It told of how she was spending her holidays at a sea-
side village in Donegal. "It is even far quieter than
Garradrimna and the valley. I go down to the sea in
the mornings, but it is only to think and dream. The sea
is just like one big lake, more lonely by far than the
lake in the valley. This is surely the loneliest place you
could imagine, but there is a certain sense of peace about
it that is quite lovely. It is some distance from my
home, and it is nice to be amongst people who have no
immense concern for your eternal welfare. I like this,
and so I have avoided making acquaintances here. But
next week I am expecting a very dear friend to join me,
and so, I dare say, my holidays will have a happy end-
ing after all. I suppose you will have gone from the
valley when I go back in October. And it will be the
dreary place then. . . . " She signed herself, ' ' Yours
very sincerely, Rebecca Kerr."
His eyes were dancing as he turned to read Ulick
Shannon 's letter. . . . In the opening passages it treated
only in a conventional way of college affairs, but sud-
denly he was upon certain lines which to his mind
seemed so blackly emphasized :
"Now I was just beginning to settle back into the
routine of things when who should come along but Miss
Kerr? She was looking fine. She stayed a few days
here in Dublin, and I spent most of them with her. I
gave her the time of her life, the poor little thing ! The-
aters every night, and all the rest of it. She was just
lost for a bit of enjoyment. Grinding away, you know,
in those cursed National Schools from year's end to
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 165
year's end. Do you know what it is, John? I am get-
ting fonder and fonder of that girl. She is the best
little soul in all the world.
"She is spending her holidays up in some God-for-
saken village in Donegal. Away from her people and
by herself, you know. She has a girl friend going to
see her next week. You will not be able to believe it
probably but I am the girl friend."
He read them and re-read them, these two letters
which bore so intimately upon one another and which,
through the coincidence of their arrival together, held
convincing evidence of the dramatic moment that had
arrived in the adventure of those two lives.
He became filled by an aching feeling that made him
shiver and grow weak as if with some unknown expecta-
tion. . . . Yet why was he so disturbed in his mind as
to this happening; what had he to do with it? He was
one whose life must be directed away from such things.
But the vision of Rebecca Kerr would be filling his eyes
forever. And why had she written to him? Why had
she so graphically pictured her condition of loneliness
wherein he might enter and speak to her ? His ac-
quaintance with her was very slight, and yet he desired
to know her beyond all the knowledge and beauty of the
world. . . . And to think that it was Ulick Shannon
who was now going where he longed to go.
A heavy constraint came between him and his mother
during the remaining days. He spoke little and moved
about in meditation like one fearful of things about to
happen. But she fondly fancied as always that he was
immersed in contemplation of the future she had planned
for him. She never saw him setting forth into the
166 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
autumn fields, a book in his hand, that she did not fancy
the look of austere aloofness upon his face to be the ex-
pression of a priest reading his office. But thoughts of
this kind were far from his mind in the fields or by the
little wicket gate across which he often leaned, his eyes
fixed upon the white, hard road which seemed to lead
The day of his release at last came. Now that Ned
was away from her, working in Ballinamult, she had
managed to scrape together the price of another motor
drive to Kilaconnaghan, but it was in the misfortune of
things that Charlie Clarke's car should have been en-
gaged for the very day of John's departure by the
Houlihans of Clonabroney. It worried her greatly that
she could not have this piece of grandeur upon this sec-
ond occasion. Her intense devotion to religious litera-
ture had made her superstitious to a distressing degree.
It appeared to her as an omen across the path of John
and her own magnification. But John did not seem to
It was notable that through his advance into contem-
plation he had triumphed over the power of the valley
to a certain extent. So long as his mind had been alto-
gether absorbed in thought of the priesthood he had
moved about furtively, a fugitive, as it were, before the
hateful looks of the people of the valley and the constant
stare of the squinting windows. Now he had come into
a little tranquillity and his heart was not without some
happiness in the enjoyment of his larger vision. . . .
And yet he was far from being completely at peace.
As he sat driving with his mother in the ass-trap to
Kilaconnaghan, on his way back to the grand college in
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 167
England, his doubts were assailing him although he was
so quiet, to all seeming, sitting there. Those who passed
them upon the road never guessed that this pale-faced
young man in black was at war with his soul. . . . Few
words passed between him and his mother, for the con-
straint of the past week had not yet been lifted. She
was beginning to feel so lonely, and she was vexed with
herself that the period of his stay in the valley had not
been all she had dreamt of making it. It had been dis-
appointing to a depressing extent, and now especially in
its concluding stage. This sad excursion in the little
ass-trap, without any of the pomp and circumstance
which John so highly deserved, was a poor, mean ending.
He was running over in his mind the different causes
which had given this vacation its unusual character.
First there came remembrance of his journey down from
Dublin with Mr. Myles Shannon, who had then sug-
gested the friendship with his nephew Ulick. Springing
out of this thought was a very vivid impression of Gar-
radrimna, that ugly place which he had discovered in its
true colors for the first time; its vile set of drunkards
and the few secret lapses it had occasioned him. Then
there was his father, that fallen and besotted man whom
the valley had ruined past all hope. As a more intimate
recollection his own doubts of the religious life by the
lakeside arose clear before him. And the lake itself
seemed very near, for it had been the silent witness of
all his moods and conditions, the dead thing that had
gathered to itself a full record of his sojourn in the val-
ley. But, above all, there was Rebecca Kerr, whom he
had contrived to meet so often as she went from school.
It was she who now brought light to all the darkened
168 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
places of his memory. Her letter to him the other day
was the one real thing he had been given to take away
from the valley. How he longed to read it again ! But
his mother's eyes were upon him. ... At last he began
to have a little thought of the part she had played.
Already they had reached the railway station of Kila-
connaghan. They went together through the little wait-
ing-room, which held sad memories for Mrs. Brennan,
and out upon the platform, where a couple of porters
leaned against their barrows chewing tobacco. Two or
three passengers were sitting around beside their luggage
waiting to take the train for Dublin. A few bank clerks
from the town were standing in a little group which pos-
sessed an imaginary distinction, laughing in a genteel
way at a puerile joke from some of the London weekly
journals. They were wearing sporting clothes and had
fresh fags in their mouths. It was an essential portion
of their occupation, this perpetual delight in watching
the outgoing afternoon train.
" Aren't they the grand-looking young swells?" said
Mrs. Brennan; "I suppose them have the great jobs
* ' Great ! ' ' replied John, quite unconscious of what he
He spoke no other word till he took his place in the
train. She kissed him through the open window and
hung affectionately to his hand. . . . Then there flut-
tered in upon them the moment of parting. . . . Smiling
wistfully and waving her hand, she watched the train
until it had rounded a curve. She lingered for a mo-
ment by the advertisement for Jameson 's Whiskey in the
waiting-room to wipe her eyes. She began to remember
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 169
how she had behaved here in this very place on the day
of John's home-coming, and of how he had left her
standing while he talked to Myles Shannon. ... He
seemed to have slipped away from her now, and her
present thought made her feel that the shadow of the
Shannon family, stretching far across her life, had at-
tended his going as it had attended his coming.
She went out to the little waiting ass and, mounting
into the trap, drove out of Kilaconnaghan into the dark
forest of her fears.
THROUGH the earlier part of this term at college
there was no peace in the mind of John Brennan,
and his unsettled state arose, for the most part, from
simple remembrance of things that had happened in the
valley. Now it was because he could see again, some
afternoon in the summer, Rebecca Kerr coming towards
him down the road in a brown and white striped dress,
that he thought was pretty, and swinging a sun-bonnet
by its long cotton strings from her soft, small hand. Or
again, some hour he had spent listening to Ulick Shan-
non as he talked about the things of life which are
marked only by the beauty of passion and death. Al-
ways, too, with the aid of two letters he still treasured,
his imagination would leap towards the creation of a
picture Rebecca and Ulick together in far-off Donegal.
He did not go home at Christmas because it was so
expensive to return to Ireland, and in the lonely stretches
of the vacation, when all his college friends were away
from him, he felt that they must surely be meeting again,
meeting and kissing in some quiet, dusky place Re-
becca as he had seen her always and Ulick as he had
Even if he had wished to leave Ulick and Rebecca out
of his mind, it would have been impossible, so persist-
ently did his mother refer to both in her letters. There
was never a letter which did not contain some allusion
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 1T1
to "them two" or "that one" or "that fellow." In
February, when the days began to stretch out again, he
thought only of the valley coming nearer, with its long
period of delight. . . . Within the fascination of his
musing he grew forgetful of his lofty future. Yet there
were odd moments when he remembered that he had
moved into the valley a very different man at the begin-
ning of last June. The valley had changed him, and
might continue to change him when he went there again.
Nothing came to stay the even rise of his yearning
save his mother's letters, which were the same recitals at
all times of stories about the same people. At no time
did he expect to find anything new in them, and so it
was all the stronger blow when from one letter leaped
out the news that Ulick Shannon had failed to pass his
final medical exam., and was now living at home in
Scarden House with his uncle Myles. That he had been
"expelled from the University and disgraced" was the
way she put it. It did not please John to see that she
was exulting over what had happened to Ulick while
hinting at the same time that there was no fear of a like
calamity happening to her son. To him it appeared as
not at all such an event as one might exult about. It
rather evoked pity and condolence in the thought that
it might happen to any man. It might happen to him-
self. Here surely was a fearful thing the sudden
dread of his return to the valley, a disgrace for life, and
his mother a ruined woman in the downfall of her son.
. . . This last letter of hers had brought him to review
all the brave thoughts that had come to him by the lake-
side, wild thoughts of living his own life, not in the way
appointed for him by any other person, but freely, after
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
the bent of his own will. Yet when he came to think
of it quietly there was not much he could do in the world
with his present education. It seemed to have fitted him
only for one kind of life. And his thoughts of the sum-
mer might have been only passing distractions which
must disappear with the full development of his mind.
To think of those ideas ever coming suddenly to reality
would be a blow too powerful to his mother. It would
kill her. For, with other knowledge, the summer holi-
days had brought him to see how much she looked for-
ward to his becoming a priest.
Quite unconsciously, without the least effort of his
will, he found himself returning to his old, keen interest
in his studies. He found himself coming back to his
lost peace of mind. He felt somehow that his enjoy-
ment of this grand contentment was the very best way
he could flash back his mother 's love. Besides it was the
best earnest he had of the enjoyment of his coming holi-
Then the disaster came. The imminence of it had been
troubling the rector for a long time. His college was in
a state of disintegration, for the Great War had cast its
shadow over the quiet walls.
It was a charity college. This was a secret that had
been well kept from the people of the valley by Mrs.
Brennan. "A grand college in England" was the ut-
most information she would ever vouchsafe to any in-
quirer. She had formed a friendly alliance with the
old, bespectacled postmistress and made all her things
free of charge for keeping close the knowledge of John 's
exact whereabouts in England. Yet there was never a
letter from mother to son or from son to mother that
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 173
the old maid did not consider it her bounden duty to
open and read.
The college had been supported by good people who
could find nothing else to do with their money. But, in
war-time, charity was diverted into other channels, and
its income had consequently dwindled almost to vanish-
ing point. Coupled with this, many of the students had
left aside their books and gone into the Army. One
morning the rector appeared in the lecture-hall to an-
nounce to the remnant that the college was about to be
closed for "some time." He meant indefinitely, but the
poor man could not put it in that way.
John heard the news with mingled feelings. In a
dumb way he had longed for this after his return from
the valley, but now he saw in it, not the arrival of a
desired event, but a postponement of the great intention
that had begun to absorb him again. He was achieving
his desire in a way that made it a punishment. . . . To-
morrow he would be going home. . . . But of course his
mother knew everything by this time and was already
preparing a welcome for him.
The March evening was gray and cold when he came
into the deserted station of Kilaconnaghan. It had been
raining ceaselessly since Christmas, and around and
away from him stretched the sodden country. He got a
porter to take his trunk out to the van and stand it on
end upon the platform. Then he went into the waiting-
room to meet his mother. But she was not there. Nor
was the little donkey and trap outside the station house.
Perhaps she was coming to meet him with Charlie Clarke
in the grand and holy motor car. If he went on he
might meet them coming through Kilaconnaghan. He
174 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
got the porter to take his box from its place on the plat-
form and put it into the waiting-room. All down
through the town there was no sign of them, and when
he got out upon the road to Garradrimna and the valley
there was no sign of them either. The night had fallen
thick and heavy, and John, as he went on through the
rain, looked forward to the comforting radiance of Char-
lie Clarke's headlights suddenly to flash around every
corner. But the car did not come and he began to grow
weary of tramping through the wet night. All along
the way he was meeting people who shouldered up to
him and strove to peer into his face as he slipped past.
He did not come on to the valley road by way of Garra-
drimna, but instead by The Road of the Dead, down
which he went slopping through great pools at every
He was very weary when he came at last to the door
of his mother's house. Before knocking he had listened
for a while to the low hum of her reading to his father.
Then he heard her moving to open the door, and imme-
diately she was silhouetted in the lamp-light.
' ' Is that you, John ? We knew you were coming home.
We got the rector 's letter. ' '
He noticed a queer coldness in her tone.
"I'd rather to God that anything in the world had
happened than this. What '11 they say now? They'll
say you were expelled. As sure as God, they'll say you
were expelled ! ' '
He threw himself into the first chair he saw.
"Did any one meet you down the road? Did many
meet you from this to Kilaconnaghan ? "
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
He did not answer. This was a curious welcome he
was receiving. Yet he noticed that tears were beginning
to creep into her eyes, which were also red as if from
much recent weeping.
"Oh, God knows, and God knows again, John, I'd
rather have died than it should have come to this. And
why was it that after all me contriving and after all me
praying and good works this bitter cross should have
fallen? I don't know. I can't think for what I am
being punished and why misfortune should come to you.
And what '11 they say at all at all? Oh you may depend
upon it that it's the worst thing they'll say. But you
mustn't tell them that the college is finished. For I
suppose it's finished now the way everything is going
to be finished before the war. But you mustn't say
that. You must say that it is on special holidays you
are, after having passed a special examination. And
you must behave as if you were on holidays ! ' '
Such a dreadful anxiety was upon her that she ap-
peared no longer as his mother, the infinitely tender
woman he had known. She now seemed to possess none
of the pure contentment her loving tenderness should
have brought her. She was altogether concerned as to
what the people would say and not as to the effect of
the happening upon her son's career. He had begun
to think of this for himself, but it was not of it that
she was now thinking. . . . She was thinking of her-
self, of her pride, and that was why she had not come
t6 meet him. And now his clothes were wet and he
was tired, for he had walked from Kilaconnaghan in
176 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Ned Brennan, stirring out of his drunken doze, mut-
tered thickly: "Ah, God blast yourselves and your
college, can't you let a fellow have a sleep be the fire
after his hard day!"
JOHN went from the kitchen to a restless night.
Soon after daybreak he got up and looked out of
the window. The crows had been flying across it darkly
since the beginning of the light. He gazed down now
towards the stretch of trees about the lake. They were
dark figures in the somber picture. He had not seen
them since autumn, and even then some of the bright-
ness of summer had lingered with them. Now they
looked as if they had been weeping. He could see the
lake between the clumps of fir-trees. The water was all
dark like the scene in which it was framed. It now
beat itself into a futile imitation of billows, into a kind
of make-believe before the wild things around that it
was an angry sea, holding deep in its caverns the relics
of great dooms. But the trees seemed to rock in enjoy-
ment and to join forces with the wild things in torment-
ing the lake.
John looked at the clock. It was early hours, and
there would be no need to go out for a long time. He
went back to bed and remained there without sleep,
gazing up at the ceiling. . . . He fell to thinking of
what he would have to face in the valley now. . . .
His mother had hinted at the wide scope of it last night
when she said that she would rather anything in God's
world had happened than this thing, this sudden
178 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
home-coming. . . . She was thinking only of her
own pride. It was an offense against her pride, he felt,
and that was all. It stood to lessen the exalted position
which the purpose of his existence gave her before the
other women of the valley. But he had begun to feel
the importance of his own person in the scheme of cir-
cumstance by which he was surrounded. It had begun
to appear to him that he mattered somehow; that in
some undreamt-of way he might leave his mark upon
the valley before he died.
He would go to Mass in Garradrimna this morning.
He very well knew how this attendance at morning Mass
was a comfort to his mother. He was about to do this
thing to please her now. Yet, how was the matter going
to affect himself? He would be stared at by the very
walls and trees as he went the wet road into Garra-
drimna; and no matter what position he might take up
in the chapel there would be very certain to be a few
who would come kneeling together into a little group
and, in hushed tones within the presence of their God
upon the altar, say:
"Now, isn't that John Brennan I see before me, or
can I believe my eyes ? Aye, it must be him. Expelled,
I suppose. Begad that's great. Expelled! Begad!"
If he happened to take the slightest side-glance around,
he would catch glimpses of eyes sunk low beneath brows
which published expressions midway between pity and
contempt, between delight and curiosity. ... In some
wonderful way the first evidence of his long hoped for
downfall would spread throughout the small congrega-
tion. Those in front would let their heads or prayer-
books fall beside or behind them, so that they might have
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 179
an excuse for turning around to view the young man
who, in his unfortunate presence here, stood for this
glad piece of intelligence. The acolytes serving Father
O'Keeffe, and having occasional glimpses of the con-
gregation, would see the black-coated figure set there in
contradistinction to Charlie Clarke and the accustomed
voteens with the bobbing bonnets. In their wise looks
up at him they would seem to communicate the news
to the priest.
And although only a very few seconds had elapsed,
Father O'Keeffe would have thrown off his vestments
and be going bounding towards the Presbytery for his
breakfast as John emerged from the chapel. It would
be an ostentatious meeting. Although he had neither
act nor part in it, nor did he favor it in any way,
Father O'Keeffe always desired people to think that it
was he who was " doing for Mrs. Brennan's boy beyond
in England." . . . There would be the usual flow of
questions, a deep pursing of the lips, and the sudden
creation of a wise, concerned, ecclesiastical look at every
answer. Then there was certain to come the final brutal
question: "And what are you going to do with your-
self meanwhile, is it any harm to ask?" As he con-
tinued to stare up vacantly at the ceiling, John could
not frame a possible answer to that question. And yet
he knew it would be the foremost of Father O'Keeffe 's
There would be the hurried crowding into every door-
way and into all the squinting windows as he went past.
Outwardly there would be smiles of welcome for him,
but in the seven publichouses of Garradrimna the exulta-
tion would be so great as to make men who had been
180 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
ancient enemies stand drinks to one another in the mo-
ment of gladness which had come upon them with the
return of John Brennan.
" 'Tis expelled he is like Ulick Shannon. That's as
sure as you're there!"
"To be sure he's expelled. And wouldn't any one
know he was going to be expelled the same as the other
fellow, the way they were conducting themselves last
summer, running after gerrls and drinking like hell?"
"And did ye ever hear such nonsense? The idea of
him going on for to be a priest!" Then there would
be a shaking of wise heads and a coming of wise looks
into their faces.
He could see what would happen when he met the
fathers of Garradrimna, when he met Padna Padna or
Shamesy Golliher. There would be the short, dry laugh
from Padna Padna, and a pathetic scrambling of the
dimming intelligence to recognize him.
"And is that you, John? Back again! Well, boys-
a-day! And isn't it grand that Ulick Shannon is at
home these times too? Isn't it a pity about Ulick, for
he's a decent fellow? Every bit as decent as his father,
Henry Shannon, was, and he was a damned decent
fellow. Ah, 'tis a great pity of him to be exshpelled.
Aye, 'tis a great pity of any one that does be exsh-
The meeting with Shamesy Golliher formed as a clearer
picture before his mind.
"Arrah me sound man, John, sure I thought you'd
be saying the Mass before this time. There's nothing
strange in the valley at all. Only 'tis harder than ever
to get the rabbits, the weeshy devils! Only for Ulick
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 181
Shannon I don't know what I'd do for a drink some-
times. But, damn it, he's the decentest fellow. . . .
You 're only a few minutes late, sure 'tis only this blessed
minute that Miss Kerr's gone on to the school. . . .
And you could have been chatting with her so grandly
all the way!"
That John Brennan should be thinking after this
fashion, creating all those little scenes before the eye of
his mind and imagining their accompanying conversa-
tions, was indicative of the way the valley and the
village had forced their reality upon him last summer.
But this pictured combination of incidents was intensi-
fied by a certain morbid way of dwelling upon things
his long spells of meditation by the lake had brought
him. Yet he knew that even all his clear vision of the
mean ways of life around him would not act as an in-
centive to combat them but, most extraordinary to
imagine, as a sort of lure towards the persecution of
their scenes and incidents.
"It must be coming near time to rise for Mass," he
said aloud to himself, as he felt that he had been quite
a long time giving himself up to speculations in which
there was no joy.
There was a tap upon the door. It was his mother
calling him, as had been her custom during all the days
of his holiday times. The door opened and she came into
the room. Her manner seemed to have changed some-
what from the night before. The curious look of ten-
derness she had always displayed while gazing upon
him seemed to have struggled back into her eyes. She
came and sat by the bedside and, for a few moments,
both were silent.
182 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
" 'Tis very cold this morning, mother/' was the only
thing John could think of saying.
A slight confusion seemed to have come upon her
since her entrance to the room. Without any warning
by a word, she suddenly threw her arms about him as
he lay there on the bed and covered his face with kisses.
He was amazed, but her kisses seemed to hurt him. . . .
It must have been years and years since she had kissed
him like this, and now he was a man. . . . When she
released him so that he could look up at her he saw that
she was crying.
"I'm sorry about last night, John," she said. "I'm
sorry, darling; but surely I could not bring myself to
do it. Even for a few hours I wanted to keep them from
knowing. I even wanted to keep your father from
knowing. So I did not tell him until I heard your poor,
wet foot come sopping up to the door. He did not
curse much then, for he seems to have begun to feel a
little respect for you. But the curses of him all through
the night were enough to lift the roof off the house.
Oh, he's the terrible man, for all me praying and all
me reading to him of good, holy books ; and 'tis no won-
der for all kinds of misfortune to fall, though God be-
tween us and all harm, what am I saying at all? . . .
It was the hard, long walk down the wet, dark road
from Kilaconnaghan last night, and it pained me every
inch of the way. If it hurt your feet and your limbs,
avic, remember that your suffering was nothing to the
pain that plowed through your mother's heart all the
while you were coming along to this house. . . . But
God only knows I couldn't. I couldn't let them see
me setting off into the twilight upon the little ass, and I
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 183
going for me son. I even went so far as to catch the
little ass and yoke him, and put on the grand clothes
I was decked out in when I met you last June with the
motor. But somehow I hadn't the heart for the journey
this time, and you coming home before you were due.
I couldn't let them see me! I couldn't let them see
me, so I couldn't!"
"But it is not my fault, mother. I have not brought
it about directly by any action of mine. It comes from
the changed state of everything on account of the Great
War. You may say it came naturally."
"Ah, sure I know that, dear, I know it well, and don't
be troubling yourself. In the letter of the rector before
the very last one didn't he mention the change of re-
signed application that had at last come to you, and that
you had grown less susceptible I think that is the
grand word he used aye, less susceptible to distrac-
tions and more quiet in your mind? And I knew as
well as anything that it was coming to pass so beauti-
fully, that all the long prayers I had said for you upon
me two bare, bended knees were after being heard at
last, and a great joy was just beginning to come surg-
ing into me heart when the terrible blow of the last
letter fell down upon me. But sure I used to be having
the queerest dreams r and I felt that nothing good was
going to happen when Ulick Shannon came down here
expelled from the University in Dublin. You used to
be a great deal in his company last summer, and mebbe
there was some curse put upon the both of you together.
May God forgive me, but I hate that young fellow like
poison. I don't know rightly why it is, but it vexes
me to see him idling around the way he is after what's
184 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
happened to him. Bragging about being expelled he
bees every day in McDermott's of Garradrimna. And
his uncle Myles is every bit as bad, going to keep him at
home until the end of next summer. "To give him time
to think of things,' he says. 'I'm going to find a use
for him/ he says to any one that asks him, 'never you
fear!' Well, begad, 'tis a grand thing not to know
what to do with your money like the Shannons of Scar-
den Hill. . . . But sure I'm talking and talking. 'Tis
what I came in to tell you now of the plan I have been
making up all night. If we let them see that we're
lying down under this misfortune we 're bet surely. We
must put a brave face upon it. You must make a big
show-off that you're after getting special holidays for
some great, successful examination you've passed ahead
of any one else in the college. I'll let on I'm delighted,
and be mad to tell it to every customer that comes into
the sewing-room. But you must help me; you must
go about saying hard things of Ulick Shannon that's
after being expelled, for that's the very best way you
can do it. He'll mebbe seek your company like last
year, but you must let him see for certain that you con-
sider yourself a deal above him. But you musn't be
so quiet and go moping so much about the lake as you
used to. You must go about everywhere, talking of
yourself and what you're going to be. Now you must
do all this for my sake won't you, John?"
His tremulous "yes" was very unenthusiastic and
seemed to hold no great promise of fulfilment. These
were hard things his mother was asking him to do, and
he would require some time to think them over. . . .
But even now he wondered was it in him to do them
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 185
at all. The attitude towards Ulick Shannon which she
now proposed would be a curious thing, for they had
been the best of friends.
"And while you're doing this thing for me, John,
I'll be going on with me plans for your future. It
was me, and me only, that set up this beautiful plan of
the priesthood as the future I wanted for you. I got
no one to help me, I can tell you that. Only every one
to raise their hands against me. And in spite of all
that I carried me plan to what success the rector spoke
of in his last letter. And even though this shadow
has fallen across it, me son and meself between us are
not going to let it be the end. For I want to see you a
priest, John. I want to see you a priest before I die.
God knows I want to see that before I die. Nan Byrne 's
son a priest before she dies!"
Her speech mounted to such a pitch of excitement
that towards the end it trailed away into a long, frenzied
scream. It awoke Ned Brennan where he dozed fitfully
in the next room, and he roared out:
"Ah, what the hell are yous gosthering and croaking
about in there at this hour of the morning, the two of
yous? It'd be serving you a lot better to be down
getting me breakfast, Nan Byrne!"
She came away very quietly from the bedside of her
son and left the room. John remained for some time
thinking over the things she had been saying. Then
he rose wearily and went downstairs. It was only now
he noticed that his mother had dried his clothes. It
must have taken her a good portion of the night to
do this. His boots, which had been so wet and muddy
after his walk from Kilaconnaghan, were now polished
186 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
to resplendence and standing clean and dry beside the
fire. The full realization of these small actions brought
a fine feeling of tenderness into his mind. . . . He
quickly prepared himself to leave the house. She ob-
served him with concern as she went about cooking the
breakfast for her man.
"You're not going to Mass this morning, are ye,
"Oh, no!" he replied with a nervous quickness.
"Our chat delayed me. It is now past nine."
"Ah, dear, sure I never thought while I was talking.
The last time I kept you it was the morning after the
concert, and even then you were in time for 'half -past
eight ' . . . But sure, anyhow, you 're too tired this
morning. ' '
"I'm going for a little walk before breakfast."
The words broke in queerly upon the thought she
had just expressed, but his reason was nothing more
than to avoid his father, who would be presently snap-
ping savagely at his breakfast in the kitchen.
The wet road was cheerless and the bare trees and
fields were cold and lonely. Everything was in contrast
to the mood in which he had known it last summer. It
seemed as if he would never know it in that mood again.
Now that he had returned it was a poor thing and very
small beside the pictures his dream had made. ... He
was wandering down The Road of the Dead and there
was a girl coming towards him. He knew it was Ee-
becca Kerr, and this meeting did not appear in the
She was dressed, as he had not previously seen her,
in a heavy brown coat, a thick scarf about her throat and
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 187
a ^pretty velvet cap which hid most of her hair. Her
small feet were well shod in strong boots, and she came
radiantly down the wet road. A look of surprise sprang
into her eyes when she saw him, and she seemed uncer-
tain of herself as they stopped to speak.
"Back again?" she said, not without some inquisitive
surprise in her tones.
"Yes, another holiday," he said quickly.
"Nothing wrong?" she queried.
"Well, well, no; but the college has closed down for
the period of the war."
"That is a pity. "
He laughed a queer, excited little laugh, in which
there did not seem to be any mirth or meaning. Then
he picked himself up quickly.
"You won't tell anybody?"
"This that I have told you, about the college."
"Oh, dear no!" she replied very quickly, as if amazed
and annoyed that he should have asked her to respect this
little piece of information as a confidence. And she
had not reckoned on meeting him at all. Besides she
had not spoken so many words to him since the morning
after the concert.
She lifted her head high and went on walking be-
tween the muddy puddles on the way to the valley school.
John felt somewhat crushed by her abruptness, espe-
cially after what he had told her. And where was the
fine resolve with which his mother had hoped to infuse
him of acting a brave part for her sake before the people
of the valley?
MYLES SHANNON and his nephew Ulick sat at
breakfast in the dining-room of the big house
among the trees. The Irish Times of the previous day's
date was crackling in the elder man's hand.
"Did you ever think of joining the Army, Ulick? It
is most extraordinary, the number of ne 'er-do-wells who
manage to get commissions just now. Why I think there
should be no bother at all if you tried. With your
knowledge I fancy you could get into the R.A.M.C. It
is evidently infernally easy. I suppose your conduct
at the University would have nothing to do with your
chances of acceptance or rejection f "
"Oh, not at all. 7 '
"I thought not."
"But I fancied, uncle, that when I came down here
from Dublin I had done with intending myself to kill
people. That is, with joining any combination for pur-
poses of slaughter.'*
Myles Shannon lifted his eyes from the paper and
smiled. Evidently he did not appreciate the full, grim
point of the joke, but he rather fancied there was some-
thing subtle about it, and it was in that quiet and vener-
able tradition of humorous things his training had led
him to enjoy. This was one of the reasons why, even
though a Catholic and a moderate Nationalist, he had
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 189
remained a devoted reader of the Irish Times. He was
conservative even in his humor.
"But in Army medical work, however, there is al-
ways the compensating chance of the gentleman with
the license to kill getting killed himself," continued
His lips closed now, for he had at last come to the
end of his joke. The conversation lapsed, and Mr.
Shannon went on with his reading. Ulick had been to
Garradrimna on the previous evening, and he was
acutely conscious of many defects in his own condition
and in the condition of the world about him this morn-
ing. His thoughts were now extending with all the
power of which they were capable to his uncle, that
silent, intent man, whose bald head stretched expan-
sively before him.
Myles Shannon was a singularly fine man, and in
thinking of him as such his mind began to fill with
imaginations of the man his father must have been.
He had never known his father nor, for the matter of
that, could he boast of any deep acquaintance with his
uncle, yet what an excellent, restrained type of man
he was to be sure ! Another in the same position as his
guardian would have flogged himself into a fury over
the mess he had made of his studies. But it had not
been so with his uncle. He had behaved with a calm
forbearance. He had supplied him with time and money,
and had gone even so far as to look kindly upon the
affair with Rebecca Kerr. He had been here since the
beginning of the year, and all his uncle had so far said
to him by way of asserting his authority was spoken
190 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"Now, I'll give you a fair time to think over things.
I'll give you till the end of the summer holidays, till
after young Brennan comes and goes." These had been
his uncle's exact words, and he had not attempted to
question them or to qualify them at the time. But just
now they were running through his brain with the most
curious throbbing insistence. "Till after young Bren-
nan comes and goes." He knew v that his uncle had
taken an unusual fancy to John Brennan and evidently
wished that his summer holidays should be spent en-
joyably. But it was a long time until summer, and he
was not a person one might conscientiously commend
to the friendship of a clerical student. He very often
went to Garradrimna.
Ulick had already formed some impressions of his fel-
low man. He held it as his opinion that at the root of
an action, which may appear extraordinary because of
its goodness, is always an amount of selfishness. Yet,
somehow, as he carefully considered his uncle in the
meditative spaces of the breakfast he could not fit him
'in with this idea.
As he went on with his thought he felt that it was the
very excess of his uncle's qualities which had had such
a curious effect upon his relations with Kebecca Kerr.
It was the very easiness of the path he had afforded
to love-making which now made it so difficult. If they
had been forbidden and if they had been persecuted,
their early affection must have endured more strongly.
The opposition of the valley and the village still con-
tinued, but Ulick considered their bearing upon him now
as he had always considered it with contempt.
There had been a good deal of wild affection trans-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 191
ported into their snatched meetings during the past
summer in Donegal. After Christmas, too, he had gone
there to see her, and then had happened the climax of
their love-making in a quiet cottage within sound of the
sea. . . . Both had moved away from that glowing mo-
ment forever changed. Neither could tell of the great-
ness of the shadow that had fallen between them.
He remembered all her tears on the first evening he had
met her after coming back to the valley. There had been
nothing in her letters, only the faintest suggestion of
some strained feeling. Then had come this unhappy
meeting. . . . She had tortured herself into the belief
that it was she who was responsible for his failure.
"With all the time you have wasted coming to see me
I have destroyed you. When you should have been at
your studies I was taking you up to Donegal. ' '
As he listened to these words between her sobs, there
rushed in upon him full realization of all her goodness
and the contrast of two pictures her words had called to
his mind. . . . There was he by her side, her head upon
his shoulder in that lonely cottage in Donegal, their
young lives lighting the cold, bare place around them.
. . . And then the other picture of himself bent low over
his dirty, thumb-greased books in that abominable street
up and down which a cart was always lumbering. All
the torture of this driving him to Doyle's pub at the
corner, and afterwards along some squalid street of ill-
fame with a few more drunken medical students.
He was glad to be with her again. They met very
often during his first month at his uncle 's house, in dark
spots along the valley road and The Road of the Dead.
Then he began to notice a curious reserve springing up
192 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
between them. She was becoming mysterious while at
the same time remaining acutely present in his life.
One morning she had asked him if he intended to re-
main long in the valley, and he had not known how to
reply to her. Another time she had asked him if he
was going to retire altogether from the study of medicine,
and with what did he intend to occupy himself now?
And, upon a certain occasion, she had almost asked him
was it the intention of his uncle to leave him the grand
farm and the lovely house among the trees?
These were vexatious questions and so different from
any part of the talk they used to have here in the valley
last summer or at the cottage in Donegal. Her feeling
of surrender in his presence had been replaced by a
sense of possession which seemed the death of all that
kindling of her heart. Then it had happened that, de-
spite the encouragement of his uncle, a shadow had fallen
upon his love-affair with Rebecca Kerr. . . . He was
growing tired of his idle existence in the valley. Very
slowly he was beginning to see life from a new angle.
He was disgusted with himself and with the mess he
had made of things in Dublin. He could not say
whether it was her talk with him that had shamed him
into thinking about it, but he felt again like making
something of himself away from this mean place. Once
or twice he wondered whether it was because he wanted
to get away from her. Somehow his uncle and himself
were the only people who seemed directly concerned in
the matter. His uncle was a very decent man, and he
felt that he could not presume on his hospitality any
Mr. Shannon took off his spectacles and laid by the
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 193
Irish Times. There was an intimate bond between the
man and his paper. He always considered it as hitting
off his own opinions to a nicety upon any subject under
the sun. This always after he had read the leaders which
dealt with these subjects. It afforded a contribution to
his thought and ideas out of which he spoke with a
Old Susan Hennessy came into the room with some
letters that Farrell McGuinness was after leaving. She
hobbled in, a hunched, decrepit woman, now in the con-
cluding stages of her long life as housekeeper to the
Shannons, and put the letters into her master's hand.
. . . Then she lingered, quite unnecessarily, about the
breakfast-table. Her toothless gums were stripping as
words began to struggle into her mouth. . . . Mr. Shan-
non took notice of her. This was her usual behavior
when she had anything of uncommon interest to say.
"Well, what is it now?" said Mr. Shannon, not with-
out some weariness in his tones, for he expected only to
hear some poor piece of local gossip.
"It's how Farrell McGuinness is after telling me, sir,
that John Brennan is home."
"Is that a fact?"
"And Farrell says that by the look's on the outside of
a certain letter that came to Mrs. Brennan th 'other day
it is what he is after being expelled."
"Expelled. Well, well!"
There was a mixture of interest and anxiety in Mr.
"A good many of those small English colleges are get-
ting broken up and the students drifting into the Army,
I suppose that's the reason ; but of course they'll say he's
194 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
been expelled, " Ulick ventured as old Susan slipped
from the room and down to the loneliness of the kitchen,
where she might brood to her heart's content over this
glad piece of information, for she was one who well knew
the story of John Brennan 's mother and "poor Misther
1 'Is that so?" The interest of Mr. Shannon was
rapidly mounting towards excitement.
"A case like that is rather hard," said Ulick.
"Yes, it will be rather hard on Mrs. Brennan, I fancy,
she being so stuck-up with pride in him."
He could just barely hide his feelings of exultation.
"And John Brennan is not a bad fellow."
"I daresay he's not."
There was now a curious note of impatience in the
elder man's tones as if he wished, for some reason or
other, to have done speaking of the matter.
' ' It will probably mean the end of his intention for the
' ' That is more than likely. These sudden changes have
the effect of throwing a shadow over many a young fel-
His eyes twinkled, but he fingered his mustache nerv-
ously as he said this.
"Funny to think of the two of us getting thrown down
together, we being such friends!"
The doubtful humor in the coincidence had appealed
to the queer kink that was in the mind of Ulick, and it
was because of it he now spoke. It was the merest wan-
tonness that he should have said this thing, and yet it
seemed instantly to have struck some hidden chord of
deeper thought in his uncle's mind. When Myles Shan-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 195
non spoke again it was abruptly, and his words seemed
to spring out of a sudden impulse:
" You'd better think over that matter of the Army I
have just mentioned. ' '
It was the first time his uncle Myles had spoken to
him in this way, and now that the rod of correction had
fallen even thus lightly he did not like it at all. He felt
that his face was already flushing. . . . And into his
mind was burning again the thought of how he had made
such a mess of things. . . . He moved towards the door,
and there was his uncle's voice again raised as if in the
reproof of authority:
"And where might you be going to-day V 9
"Down the valley to see my friend John Brennan,
who'll be surely lonely on the first day at home/' he said,
rather hurriedly, as he went out in the hallway to get
When Myles Shannon was left alone he immediately
drifted into deeper thought there in the empty room with
his back to the fire. With one hand he clasped his long
coat-tails, and with the other nervously twirled his long
mustache. He was thinking rapidly, and his thoughts
were so strong within him that he was speaking them
' ' I might not have gone so far. Don 't you see how I
might have waited in patience and allowed the hand of
Fate to adjust things ? See how grandly they are coming
around. . . . And now maybe I have gone too far.
Maybe I have helped to spoil Ulick's life into the bar-
gain. And then there's the third party, this girl, Re-
He looked straight out before him now, and away over
196 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
the remains of the breakfast. . . . He crossed to the win-
dow and gazed for a while over the wet fields. He moved
into the cold, empty parlor and gazed from its window
also over the fields. . . . Then he turned and for a space
remained looking steadfastly at the bureau which held
so much of Her. Quite suddenly he crossed over and
unlocked it. ... Yes, there, with the other dead things,
were the photograph of Helena Cooper and the letters
she had written, and the letter John Brennan's mother
had written about him. He raised his eyes from the few,
poor relics and they gathered into their depths the lone-
liness of the parlor. . . . Here was the picture of this
girl, who was young and lovely, while around him, surg-
ing emptily forever, was the loneliness of his house. It
was Nan Byrne who had driven him to this, and it was
Nan Byrne who had ruined his brother Henry. . . . And
yet he was weakly questioning his just feelings of revenge
against this woman, but for whom he might now be a
happy man. He might have laughter in this house and
the sound of children at play. But now he had none of
these things, and he was lonely. ... He looked into the
over-mantel, and there he was, an empty figure, full of a
strong family pride that really stood for nothing, a polite
survival from the mild romance of the early nineties of
the last century, a useless thing amid his flocks and
herds. A man who had none of the contentment which
comes from the company of a woman or her children, a
mean creature, who, during visits to the cattle-market,
occasionally wasted his manhood in dingy adventure
about low streets in Dublin. One who remained apart
from the national thought of his own country reading
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 197
queer articles in the Irish Times about "resolute" gov-
ernment of Ireland.
His head lay low upon his chest because he was a
man mightily oppressed by a great feeling of abasement.
"In the desolation of her heart through the destruction
of her son," he muttered to himself, not without a cer-
tain weariness, as he moved away from the mirror.
WHENEVER a person from the valley went abroad
now to fair or market the question was always
4 * Is it a fact that Ulick Shannon was expelled from
the University in Dublin and is at home? And is it a
fact that John Brennan is at home from the college he
was at too, the grand college in England whose story his
mother spread far and wide ? ' '
' ' That 's quite so, ma 'am. It 's a double fact ! ' '
"And is it a fact that they do be always together, go-
ing by back ways into the seven publichouses of Garra-
drimna ? ' '
11 Oh, indeed, that's true, ma'am, and now you have
the whole of it. Sure it was in the same seven public-
houses that the pair of them laid the foundations of their
ruination last summer. Sure, do ye know what I'm
going to tell you? They couldn't be kept out of them,
and that's as sure as you're there!"
Now it was true that if Ulick had gone at all towards
Garradrimna it was through very excess of spirits, and it
was for the very same reason that he had enticed John
Brennan to go with him. . . . That time they were full
of hope and their minds were held by their thoughts of
Rebecca. But now, somehow, she seemed to have slipped
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 199
out of the lives of both of them. And because both had
chosen. The feeling had entered into Ulick's heart.
But in the case of John Brennan it was not so certain.
What had brought him out upon the first morning of his
homecoming to take a look at her? It would seem that,
through the sudden quickening of his mind towards study
just before the break-up of the college, he should have
forgotten her. . . . His life now seemed to hang in the
balance shudderingly ; a breath might direct it anyway.
He felt that he should have liked to make some sugges-
tions of his own concerning his future, but there was al-
ways that tired look of love in his mother's eyes to frus-
trate his intention. . . . Often he would go into the sew-
ing-room of a morning and she would say so sadly as she
bent over her machine * ' I 'm contriving, John ; I 'm con-
triving!" He had come to the years of manhood and
yet he must needs leave every initiative in her hands
since she would have it so. ... Thus was he driven
from the house at many a time of the day.
He went to morning Mass as usual, but the day was
long and dreary after that, for the weather was wet and
the coldness of winter still lay heavy over the fields.
The evenings were the dreariest as he sat over his books
in his room and listened to the hum of his mother's ma-
chine. Later this would give place to the tumultuous
business of his father's home-coming from Garradrimna.
Sometimes things were broken, and the noise would de-
stroy his power of application. Thus it was that, for
the most part, he avoided the house in the evenings. At
the fall of dark he would go slipping along the wet road
on his way to Garradrimna. Where the way from Scar-
den joined the way from Tullahanogue he generally met
200 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Ulick Shannon, comfortably top-coated, bound for the
It seemed as if the surrounding power of the talk
their presence in the valley had created was driving them
towards those scenes in which that talk had pictured
them. Through the dusk people would smirk at them as
they were seen going the road. . . . They would slip into
MeDermott's by the same back way that Ned Brennan
had often gone to Brannagan's. Many a time did they
pass the place in the woods where John had beheld the
adventure of his father and the porter last summer. . . .
In the bottling room of McDermott's they would fancy
they were unseen, but Shamesy Golliher or Padna Padna
or Thomas James would be always cropping up most
unaccountably to tell the tale when they went out into the
bar again after what would appear the most accidental
glance into the bottling-room. . . . John would take port
wine and Ulick whatever drink he preferred. But even
the entertainment of themselves after this fashion did
not evoke the subtle spell of last summer. There was no
laughter, no stories, even of a questionable kind, when
Josie Guinan came to answer their call. Every evening
she would ask the question:
"Well, how is Rebecca, Ulick ?"
This gross familiarity irritated him greatly, for his
decent breeding made him desire that she should keep her
distance. Besides he did not want any one to remind him
of Rebecca just now. He never answered this question,
nor the other by which it was always followed :
"You don't see her very often now, do ye? But of
course the woods bees wet these times."
The mere mention of Rebecca's name in this filthy
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 201
place annoyed John Brennan, who thought of her con-
tinuously as some one far beyond all aspects of Garra-
Yet they would be forever coming here to invite this
persecution. Ulick would ever and again retreat into
long silences that were painful for his companion. But
John found some solace come to him through the port
wine. So much was this the case that he began to have a
certain hankering after spending the evening in this way.
When the night had fallen thick and dark over Garra-
drimna they would come out of McDerrnott's and spend
long hours walking up and down the valley road. Ulick
would occasionally give vent to outbursts of talk upon
impersonal subjects the war and politics, the tragic
trend of modern literature. John always listened with
interest. He never wished to return early to the house,
for he dreaded the afflicted drone of his mother reading
the holy books to his father by the kitchen fire.
During those brief spells, when the weather brightened
for a day or two, he often took walks down by the school
and towards the lake. . . . Always he felt, through power
of an oppressive realization, that the eyes of Master Don-
nellan were upon him as he slipped past the school. . . .
So he began to go by a lane which did not take him be-
fore the disappointed eyes of the old man.
Going this way one day he came upon a battered school-
reader of an advanced standard, looking so pathetic in its
final desertion by its owner, for there is nothing so lonely
as the things a schoolboy leaves behind him. . . . He be-
gan to remember the days when he, too, had gone to the
valley school and there instituted the great promise
which, so far, had not come to fulfilment. He was turn-
202 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
ing over the leaves when he came on a selection from
Carlyle's French Revolution "Thy foot to light on soft-
ness, thy eye on splendor. ' ' He pondered it as he stood
by the water's edge and until it connected itself with
his thought of Rebecca. Thy foot to light on softness,
thy eye on splendor.
It would be nearing three o 'clock now, he thought, and
Rebecca must soon be going from school. He might see
her passing along between the muddy puddles on The
Road of the Dead.
He had fallen down before her again.
IN the high, gusty evening Tommy Williams, the gom-
been-man, was standing proudly at his own door sur-
veying the street of Garradrimna. It was his custom to
appear thus at the close of the day in contemplation of
his great possessions. He owned four houses in the
village, four proud buildings which advertised his worth
before the beggars of the parish out of whom he had
made the price of them. But he was distrustful of his
customers to an enormous degree, and his purpose in
standing thus at his own door was not altogether one of
aimless speculation upon his own spacious importance in
Garradrimna. He was watching to see that some people
going down the valley road upon ass-carts did not at-
tempt to take away any of the miscellaneous merchandise
exhibited outside the door. As he stood against the
background of his shop, from which he might be said
to have derived his personality, one could view the man
in his true proportions beneath his hard, high hat. His
short beard was beginning to show tinges of gray, and
the deepening look of preoccupation behind his glasses
gave him the appearance of becoming daily more and
more like John Dillon.
Father O'Keeffe came by and said: "Good-evening,
Tommy!" This was a tribute to his respectability and
worth. He was the great man of the village, the head
and front of everything. Events revolved around him.
204 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
He would have you know that he was somebody, so he
was. A politician after the fashion in the Ireland of his
time, he organized and spoke at public meetings. He
always wanted to be saying things in support of "The
Cause." "The Cause" was to him a kind of poetic
ideal. His patriotic imagination had intensified its
glory. But it was not the future of Ireland he yearned
to see made glorious. He looked forward only to the
triumph of "The Cause."
Upon the death of his father, also a patriot, the little
mean huckstery at the tail end of the village street had
descended to him; and although he had risen to the dig-
nity and proprietorship of four houses, this establishment
had never changed, for, among the many ancient super-
stitions which crowded his mind, the hoary one of the
existence of luck where there is muck occupied a place of
prominence. And like his father he was a rebel in his
mind. The more notable political mountebanks of his
time were all men who had fought as upon a field of bat-
tle. Words served them as weapons, and words were
the weapons that he loved ; he might have died if he were
not fighting, and to him talk meant battle. He used to
collect all the supplemental pictures of those patriots
from The Weekly Freeman and paste them in a scrap-
book for edification of his eldest son, whom he desired
to be some day a unit of their combination. An old-
fashioned print of Dan 'Connell hung side by side with
a dauby caricature of Robert Emmet in the old porter-
smelling parlor off the bar. The names of the two men
were linked inseparably with one of his famous phrases
"The undying spirit of Irish Nationality."
Occasionally, when he had a drunken and enthusiastic
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 205
crowd in that part of his many-sided establishment which
was a public bar, he would read out in a fine loud voice
how "The Cause" was progressing, and, having learned
by heart a speech of John Dillon's, he would lash it out
to them as a composition of his own. Whereupon the
doubly excited audience would shake his hand as one man
and shout: "More power there, mister; 'tis yourself is
the true Irishman, me sweet fellow !" He could be very
funny too when occasion demanded, and tell stories of
Father Healy of Bray at pleasant little dinners which
took place in the upper story of his house after every
political meeting held in Garradrimna. He never missed
the opportunity and the consequent honor of singing
"On an old Irish Hill in the Morning" at every one of
those dinners. He was always warmly applauded by
Father O'Keeffe, who invariably occupied the chair. He
was treasurer of the fund, out of which he was paid for
supplying all this entertainment.
His wife was the daughter of a farmer of the "red-
hat" class. He had been compelled to marry her. . . .
If this had happened to a poor man the talk would have
followed him to the grave. But they were afraid to talk
censoriously of the patriot who had enveloped all of them.
He practically owned them. . . . The priest could not
deliver an attack upon the one who headed his lists of
Offerings and Easter Dues and the numerous collections
which brought in the decent total of Father O'Keeffe 's
To Rebecca Kerr had been given the position of gov-
erness to the Williams household. She had not sought
it, but, on the removal of the two boys, Michael Joseph
and Paddy, from the care of Master Donnellan to this
206 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
more genteel way of imparting knowledge and giving cor-
rection, which savored somewhat of the splendor ot the
Moores of Garradrimna and the Houlihans of Clona-
broney, had merely accepted it as part of the system
of the place. She had fully anticipated such possibilities
upon the very evening of her arrival. . . . Besides old
Master Donnellan had thanked her from his heart for
the release she had been the means of affording him, and
she liked the master for a quiet, kind old man who did
not prate or meddle. So far she had made little im-
provement in either of the boys. But Mrs. Williams was
evidently delighted for "our governess, Miss Kerr," was
the one person she ever spoke a good word of to Father
This evening Rebecca was in the parlor, seated just
beneath the pictures of Dan O'Connell and Robert Em-
met, wrestling hard with the boys. All at once her
pupils commanded her to be silent. ' ' Whist ! ' ' they said
in unison. She was momentarily amazed into eavesdrop-
ping at their behest. . . .
"Oh, not at all, Mrs. Brennan, sure and I couldn't
think of the like at all at all!"
"Well, Mr. Williams, as a well-known benefactor of
the college at Ballinamult and a good, religious man to
boot, I thought that mebbe you could give John a recom-
mendation. It would be grand to see him there and he
working himself up to the summit of his ambition.
There would be a great reward to your soul for doing the
like of that, Mr. Williams, as sure as you're there."
"And now, woman-a-dear, what about my own sons,
Michael Joseph and Paddy?"
"Oh, indeed, there's no fear of them, Mr. Williams!"
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 207
"But I could not think of jeopardizing them while I'd
be doing for the families or the sons of the stranger/'
"But sure, sir, I'll pay you at any rate of interest you
like if only you could see your way to give me this help.
Enough to buy a bicycle that'll take him over to Ballina-
mult every day and your grand recommendation to the
priests that'll be worth gold. I'll pay you every penny
I can, and sure the poor boy will repay you everything
when he comes into the position that's due to him."
"Well, I don't know. I don't think the missus"
At this very moment Mrs. Williams came into the
parlor where Rebecca sat with them, and beamed upon
"Oh, my poor boys, sure it is killed you are with the
terrible strain of the study. Sure it is what you 'd better
go out into the fields now with the pony; but mind, be
careful ! You poor little fellows ! ' '
Michael Joseph and Paddy at once snatched up their
caps and rushed for the door. So much for the extent of
their training and Rebecca's control of them, for this was
a daily happening. But another part of her hour of
torture at the gombeen-man's house had yet to come.
Of late Mrs. Williams had made of her a kind of confi-
dante in the small concerns of her household. She was
the sort of woman who must needs be always talking to
some one of her affairs. Now she enlarged upon the
immediate story of how Mrs. Brennan had been begging
and craving of Tommy to do something for her son John,
who had been sent home from the place he was in Eng-
land. "The cheek of her, mind you, that Mrs. Bren-
nan ! ' ' emphasized Mrs. Williams.
If it had been any other schoolmistress or girl of any
08 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
kind at all that Mrs. Williams had ever known, they
would have acquiesced in this statement of denunciation
and said: " That's a sure fact for you, ma'am!" or
"Just so!" But this had never been Rebecca's way.
She merely said: "John Brennan is a very nice young
Although Mrs. Williams was surprised, she merely
said: "Is that so? Sure I know very little about him
only to see him pass the door. They say he's taken the
fashion of tippling a bit, and it's to McDermott's he
does go, d'ye mind, with Ulick Shannon, and not to this
house. But, of course, it's my bold Ulick that's spend-
ing. Easy for him, begad, and it not his own."
Rebecca saw the dirty meanness that stirred in this
"That's what they say and it is surely a great pity
to see him wasting his time about the roads of the valley.
I think it would be a grand piece of charity on the part
of any one who would be the means of taking him away
from this place. If only he could be afforded some little
help. 'Tis surely not his fault that the college in Eng-
land broke down, and although his mother is, I believe,
contriving the best for his future, sure it is hard for her.
. She is only a poor woman, and the people of the valley
seem queerly set against her. I don 't know why. They
seem to hate the very sight of her."
"You may say that indeed, and it is the good reasons
they have "
Mrs. Williams suddenly checked herself, for there
flashed across her mind a chapter of her own story. She
had been one of the lucky ones. . . . Besides, by slow
steps, Rebecca was coming to have some power over her.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 209
"Of course it would be no loss to Tommy if he did
give this help. He'd be bound to get the interest of his
money, even if he were to sell her out of house and home.
He knows his business, and he 's not against it himself, I
may tell you; for he sees a return in many a way. It
was myself that was keeping him from it on account of
the boy's mother. But, of course, if you think it would
be a nice, good thing to do "
"It would be a good thing, and a very good thing,
and one of the best actions you could put for luck
before your own sons. ' '
"Oh, indeed, there's no fear of them! Is it Michael
Joseph or Paddy?"
"Of course not, indeed, nor did I mean anything of
the kind. I only said it to soften you, Mrs. Williams."
"Well, I may tell you it's all right, Miss Kerr. Mrs.
Brennan is out there in the shop, and she's craving from
me man. ... It 11 be all right, Miss Kerr, and that 's a
fact. ... I '11 make it all right, never you fear ! ' '
In this way was John Brennan again led back into the
paths of the Church. Curious that it should have been
given Rebecca to effect the change in his condition
Rebecca, whose beauty, snatching at his spirit always,
had drawn his mind into other ways of contemplation.
In less than a week, through the powerful ecclesiastical
influence of Tommy Williams, the gombeen-man, he was
riding daily to the college at Ballinamult. By teaching
outside the hours allotted for his own study he was earn-
ing part of his fees, and, as a further example of his
worth to the community, Tommy Williams was paying
the other portion, although as a purely financial specula-
tion. ... In a year it was expected he would win one
210 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
of the Diocesan Scholarships and go up to Maynooth.
Mrs. Brennan knew more joy than had ever before pos-
sessed her. Her son was to be ordained in Ireland after
all, and maybe given a curacy in his own diocese. Who
knew but he might yet follow in the footsteps of Father
O'Keeffe and become Parish Priest of Garradrimna
while she was still alive here in this little house in the
THE meetings of Ulick and Rebecca had become less
and less frequent. Sometimes she would not see
him for days at a stretch, and such periods would appear
as desert spaces. She would be driven by them into the
life of the valley, where no echo of comfort ever came
to her. Even the little children created an irritation
with their bright faces continually reminding her of all
the prayers they had said for her intentions. ... It was
curious that she never asked them to say a prayer for
her intentions now. And their looks would seem to be
beseeching her forever. And yet she could not she
could not ask them now. . . . Each distinct phase of the
day seemed to hold for her its own peculiar tortures.
These seemed to have reached their climax and very
moment of ecstasy on the days succeeding upon one an-
other when Monica McKeon came in at the recreation
hour to take her luncheon in company with Mrs. Wyse.
Monica would be certain to say with the most unfailing
regularity and, in fact, with exactly the same intonation
upon all occasions : ' ' I wonder when that Ulick Shannon
is going away?" To which Mrs. Wyse would reply in
a tone which would seem to have comprehended all
knowledge: "Ah, sure, he'll never go far!" Presently
Monica would begin to let fall from her slyly her usual
string of phrases: "Wouldn't you be inclined to say,
now, that Ulick Shannon is good-looking?" Talking of
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
some other one, she would describe him as being "Just
like Ulick Shannon, don 't you know ! ' ' And if they hap-
pened to be discussing the passage of some small event
it would invariably circle around the breathless point of
interest "And who do you think was there only Ulick
Shannon?" Then from where she sat supping her tea
out of a saucerless cup Mrs. Wyse would give out her
full opinion of Ulick Shannon.
"He's the quare sort, just like his father. I don't
think I've ever seen a son to take after his father so
closely. And he was what you might call a quare char-
acter in his day. It was said that a girl as well as
lost her good name if she was seen talking twice in suc-
cession to Henry Shannon, he was that bad. Like
father, like son is surely the case between Henry and
This seemed at all times the strangest talk for Rebecca
to be hearing. ... It often caused her to shiver even
though spring was well on its way. And they would
never let it out of their minds ; they would never let it
rest. They were always talking at her about Ulick
Shannon, for they seemed to know.
But no one knew save herself. It was a grand secret.
Not even Ulick knew. She hugged the dear possession
of her knowledge to herself. There was the strangest
excitement upon her to escape from school in the eve-
nings so that she might enjoy her secret in loneliness.
Even this joy had been dissipated by her certainty of
meeting John Brennan somewhere upon the road in the
near vicinity of the school. . . . Now, as she thought of
it upon an evening a few days after she had spoken to
Mrs. Williams in his favor, she fancied that his lonely
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
admiration for her must have been growing in strength
since his return. . . . There had always been a sense of
sudden relief in his presence after the torture of the two
women, a feeling of high emancipation like the rushing in
of some clean wind. . . . Only a few words had ever
passed between them on those occasions, but now they
were to her throbbing brain of blessed and sweet mem-
ory. And there had always been the same look upon his
face, making her try to puzzle out in what possible way
he could look upon her. Could it be in the way she had
looked upon him, with a full kindliness working into
the most marvelous ways of sympathy ? Yet she missed
him ever so much, now that he was to be no longer seen
upon the road.
It was strange enough, too, as she thought of it, that
although the reason of Mrs. Williams in taking a fancy
to her was no more than the selfish one of showing her
dislike for Master Donnellan, it should have borne good
fruit after this fashion. Yet a certain loneliness, a cer-
tain feeling of empty sadness was to be her reward be-
cause she had done a good thing. ... No one at all now
to take her mind away as she wandered from torture to
torture in the afternoons. . . . On one of the first eve-
nings of the changed condition of things Mrs. McGold-
rick, noticing in her keen mind that Rebecca was a min-
ute or so earlier than usual, said, after the manner of
one proud of being able to say it :
"Is it a fact, Miss Kerr, that John Brennan bees going
as a kind of a charity teacher or something to the college
"Well, if it's a fact, it is a fact," said Rebecca in a
tired, dull voice and without showing any interest what-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
soever. But even this attitude did not baulk the ser-
geant 's wife, for she hurried on :
"Ah, God help his innocent wit, but sure he'll never
be a priest, he'll never be a priest! 'Tis a pity of his
mother, but sure she could hardly expect it to be so, for
she wasn't a good woman, they tell me, and she ought
to know, you know, that she could hardly expect it to
Rebecca saw at once that her landlady was in one of
her fits of garrulousness, so she concluded in consequence
that there would not be much pleasure in her dinner to-
day. She passed it untasted and went upstairs wearily.
There was a certain grim comfort in thinking that she
had left Mrs. McGoldrick with her harangue unfinished
and a great longing upon her to be talking. . . . She
flung herself upon the bed in the still untidied room.
She was weary with some great, immeasurable weariness
this blessed evening. . . . Her corset hurt her, and she
sat up again to take it off. She caught sight of herself
reflected in the mirror opposite. . . . How worn she
looked ! Her brows, with their even curves, did not take
from the desolation that had fallen upon her forehead,
where it was grown harder as beneath the blows of some
tyrannic thought. And it seemed as if the same thought
had plowed all the lines which were beginning to ap-
pear there now. ... It must be that she had long since
entered into a mood of mourning for the things she had
lost in the valley.
She fell to remembering the first evening she had
come to it, and of how she had begun to play with her
beauty on that very first evening. It had appeared then
as the only toy in her possession in this place of dreary
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 215
immensity. And now it seemed to have run through
many and sudden vicissitudes. She had allowed Ulick
Shannon to play with it too. . . . But his language had
been so sweet when he had praised her in the silent
woods. . . . And in the lonely cottage in Donegal, where
he had gone to see her after Christmas, there had been
abiding joy, while outside the night swept wild and dark
upon the cold, gray sea. . . . Here there came sudden
qualms as to whether she had helped to ruin him by
taking him away from preparation for his final exam.
But there was such an urge of dear remembrance upon
her that her mind sprang quickly back again to all the
thoughts they had had between them then. . . . Back
into her mind too were thronging the exact words he had
used upon that night they had spent together in the
And by the side of all this, was it not queer that he
came so seldom to see her now although he lived distant
from her by only a few fields? Even when he came
their partings were so abrupt, after a little period of
strained conversation, when he always went with a slight
excuse in his mouth to Garradrimna. Yet all the time
she longed for his presence by her side with an even
greater longing than that she had experienced in Pone-
gal. ... It was also painfully notable how he gave
shifty answers to her every question. And had she not
a good right to be asking him questions now? . . . And
surely he must guess by this time.
She threw her head back upon the pillow once more,
and once more she was weeping. She thought, through
the mist of her tears, of how she had so bitterly wept
upon the first evening of her coming to this room. But
216 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
on that evening also she had prayed, and she could not
pray now. Nor could she sleep. She remained there
upon the bed, inert in every sense save for her empty
stare up at the discolored ceiling. It was broken only
by the queer smile she would take to herself ever and
again. ... At last she began to count upon her fingers.
She was simply counting the number of times she had
seen Ulick since his return to his uncle's house.
"Oh, dear, dear, and what have I done to him?" she
muttered incessantly, biting her lips occasionally between
her words as if in a very ecstasy of desire for the pain he
was causing her. . . . There came moments, winged and
clean like shining angels, to bring her comfort, when she
wildly fancied it was the very loveliest thing to endure
great pain for his sake.
But the powers of her mind for any wild gladness were
being gradually annihilated by dark thoughts coming
down to defeat her thoughts of beauty. She turned from
contemplation of the ceiling and began to glance around
the room in search of some distraction. In one corner
she saw an old novelette thrown aside in its gaudy covers.
The reading of rubbish was Mrs. McGoldrick's recreation
when she was not sewing or nursing the baby.
She had called the girls after heroines of passionate
love-stories, just as her husband, the sergeant, had seen
that the boys were called after famous men in the world
of the police. Thus the girls bore names like Euphemia
McGoldrick and Clementina McGoldrick, while the boys
bore names like John Ross McGoldrick and Neville
Chamberlain McGoldrick. The girls, although they were
ugly and ill-mannered, had already been invested with
the golden lure of Romance, and the boys were already
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 217
policemen although they were still far distant from the
age when they could put on a belt or a baton.
Rebecca began to snatch at paragraphs here and there
through the story, which was entitled The Desecration of
the Hearth. There was one passage which seemed to
hold an unaccountable fascination as her eyes lingered
"Then suddenly, and without a minute's warning,
Lord Archibald Molyneux dashed the poor, ruined
girl from him, and soon she was struggling for life
in the swirling stream.
' ' Ah-a-ha!' he said once more, hissing out his
every word between his thin, cruel lips. 'That will
may be put an end to your scandalous allegations
against a scion of the noble house of Molyneux.'
'"Mercy! Pity! Oh, God! The Child!' she
wailed piteously as she felt herself being caught in
the maelstrom of the current.
"But Lord Archibald Molyneux merely twirled
his dark, handsome mustache with his white hands,
after the fashion that was peculiar to him, and
waited until his unfortunate victim had disappeared
completely beneath the surface of the water."
Rebecca's eyes had closed over the passage, and she
was dozing now, but only fitfully. ... To occupy small
instants would come the most terrifying dreams in long
waves of horror which would seem to take great spaces
of time for their final passage from her mind. Then
there would flow in a brief space of respite, but only as
a prelude to the dread recurrence of her dreams again.
218 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
And all jumbled together, bits of wild reality which were
and were not parts of her experience would cause her to
start up ever and anon.
There fell a knock upon the door, and a little girl came
in with some tea-things on a tray. She called: "Miss
Kerr, your tea!" and when Rebecca woke up with a
terrible start it appeared as if she had not slumbered
"Oh, is that yourself, Euphemia? I declare to good-
ness the dusk is falling outside. I must have been sleep-
"You are late in coming this evening?"
"Well, wait till I tell you, miss. I went into the vil-
lage for some things for my mother, and what d 'ye think
but when I was coming home I thought I saw a strange
man just outside the ditch opposite the door, and I was
afraid for to pass, so I was."
"A strange man! Is that a fact?"
"Well, sure then I thought, miss, it might be Ulick
Shannon, but I may tell you I got the surprise of my life
when I found it was only John Brennan, and he stand-
ing there alone by himself looking up at your window. ' '
Long before she had got through it, with many lisps
and lapses, Rebecca was wearied by the triteness of the
little one's statement, so well copied was it from the
model of her mother's gossipy communication of the
But what could John Brennan be doing there so near
her again? This was the thought that held Rebecca
as she went on with an attempt to take her tea.
JOHN BRENNAN came down the valley. The trees
by the roadside were being shaken heavily by soft
winds. Yet, for all the kindness of May that lingered
about it, there seemed to be some shadow hanging over
the evening. No look of peace or pity had struggled into
the squinting windows. . . . Would the valley ever again
put on the smile it had worn last summer? That time
it had been so dearly magnified. At leaving it there had
been such a crush of feeling in his breast.
He seemed to see it more clearly now. There was
something that hurt him in the thought of how he was
preparing for a genteel kind of life while his father re-
mained a common sponger around the seven publichouses
of Garradrimna, asking people to stand him drinks for
the love of God like Anthony Shaughness. He could not
forget that the valley had wrought this destruction upon
Ned Brennan, and that Ned Brennan was his father.
This thought arose out of a definite cause. At the col-
lege in Ballinamult he had made the acquaintance of
Father George Considine, who had already begun to
exercise an influence over him. This priest was a sim-
ple, holy man, who had devoted his life usefully, remain-
ing far away from the ways of pride. Although gom-
been-men like Tommy Williams had some influence with
those who controlled the college, they had no influence
over him. He was in curious contrast to the system
220 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
which tied him to this place. It was impossible to think
that his ordination had represented a triumph to any
one at all, yet he had been far ahead of his contempo-
raries and while yet a young man had been made princi-
pal of this college in Ballinamult His name had gone
out into the world. The satisfaction that had been de-
nied to Master Donnellan was his. He had had a hand
in the education of men whose names were now notable
in many a walk of life. And yet, to see him moving
about the grounds of the college in his faded coat with
the frayed sleeves and shiny collar, no man would think
that his name, the name of ''poor Father Considine,"
was spoken with respect in distant places.
But Mrs. Brennan did not approve of him. On the
evening of John's first day in Ballinamult, after she had
made every other possible inquiry she said:
"And did you meet Father Considine?"
* * I did indeed, mother ; a nice man ! ' '
"Ah, a quare ould oddity! Wouldn't you think now
that he'd have a little pride in himself and dress a bit
better, and he such a very learned man?"
"Maybe that's just the reason why he's not proud.
The saints were not proud, mother; then why should
She always gave a deaf ear to any word of this kind
from John, for her ideal was Father 'Keeffe, with his
patent leather top-boots, silver-mounted whip and silk
hat, riding to hounds with the Cromwellian descendants
of the district. . . . Here was where Father Considine
stood out in sharp contrast, for he was in spiritual de-
scent from those priests who had died with the people in
the Penal Days. It was men like him who had carried
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
down the grandeur of Faith and Idealism from genera-
tion to generation. One felt that life was a small thing
to him beyond the chance it gave to make it beautiful.
He had written a little book of poems in honor of Mary,
the Mother of God, and to feel that it had brought some
comfort to many a troubled one and to know that he had
been the means of shaping young men's lives towards
useful ends was all that this world meant to him.
John Brennan knew very well that if he became a
priest it was in the steps of Father Considine he would
follow rather than in those of Father O'Keeffe. This
he felt must mean the frustration of half his mother's
grand desire, but, inevitable, it must be so, for it was
the way his meditative mind would lead him. Thus was
he troubled again.
Father Considine had spoken to him of Father
"A touch of the farmer about that man don't you
think ? But maybe a worthy man for all that ! ' '
Then he had looked long into the young man's eyes
"Be humble, my son, be humble, so that great things
may be done unto you!"
John had pondered these words as he cycled home that
evening past the rich fields. He began to think how his
friend Ulick would have put all his thoughts so clearly.
How he would have spoken of the rank green grass now
rising high over County Meath as a growth that had
sprung from the graves of men's rotted souls; of all
the hate and pride that had come out of their hunger for
the luscious land; of how Faith and Love and Beauty
had gone forever from this golden vale to the wild places
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
of his country, where there was a letting-in of wind and
sun and sea. ... It was easy to connect Father
O'Keeffe's pride with the land. Remembrance of the
man's appearance was sufficient. It was not so easy in
the case of his mother. But, of course, John had no
knowledge of how she had set her heart upon Henry
Shannon's lovely farm in the days gone by.
Hitherto his thoughts of his future condition had been
bound up with consideration of his mother, but now
there had come this realization of his father. It was not
without its sadness to think that his father had been a
stranger to him always and that he should now behold
him stumbling down to old age amid the degradation
of Garradrimna. He felt curiously desirous of doing
something for him. But the heavy constraint between
them still existed as always. He was unequal to the
task of plucking up courage to speak to him. This eve-
ning, too, as he tried, after his accustomed fashion, in a
vacant moment to catch a glimpse of his own future, he
acutely felt the impossibility of seeing himself as a
monument of pride. . . . Always there would arise be-
fore his mind a broken column in the middle of the
And he was lonely. He had not seen Ulick Shannon
or Rebecca since he had begun to cycle daily to Ballina-
mult. Often, in some of the vacant stretches of thought
which came to him as he hurried along, he pictured the
two of them meeting during some of those long, sweet
evenings and being kind to one another. Despite sud-
den flashes of a different regard that would come sweep-
ing his thoughts of all kinds, he loved these two and
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
was glad that they were fond of one another. It now
seemed surprising that he had ever thought so deeply
of Rebecca Kerr, and wished to meet her upon the road
and look longingly into her eyes. All this while going
on to be a priest seemed far from him now that he had
begun to be influenced by Father Considine.
He had to pass the house of Sergeant McGoldriek by
the way he was going, and it seemed an action alto-
gether outside him that he had gone into an adjacent
field and gazed for quite a long time up at her window.
. . . He was all confusion when he noticed the child
of the McGoldricks observing him. . . . He drifted
away, his cheeks hot and a little sense of shame dimming
his eyes. . . . He took to the road again and at once
saw Ulick Shannon coming towards him. The old, in-
sinuating smile which had so often been used upon his
weak points, was spread over the face of his friend.
"And at last you have succeeded in coming to see her
The words seemed to fall out of Ulick 's oblique smile.
"She?" he said in surprise.
"Oh, I thought it was that you had intentions of be-
coming my rival!"
John laughed now, for this was the old Ulick come
back again. He went on laughing as if at a good joke,
and the two students went together down the road.
"Don't let me delay you!" John said abruptly.
"Oh, you're not preventing me in any way at all."
"Even the austerities of Ballinamult have not made
you forget Rebecca?"
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"Hardly I shouldn't like to think that I had been
the cause of keeping you from her even for a short
There came between them now one of those long spells
of silence which seemed essential parts of their friend-
"You're in a queer mood this evening ?" John said
"I suppose I am, and that there's no use in trying to
hide it. ... D'ye know what it is, Brennan? We two
seem to have changed a great deal since last summer.
7 simply can't look at things in the same light-hearted
way. I suppose I went too far, and that I must be pay-
ing for it now. But there are just a few things I have
done for which I am sorry I'm sorry about this affair
with Rebecca Kerr."
John was listening with quiet attention to the remarks
which Ulick was letting fall from him disjointedly.
"I'm sorry, sorry, sorry that I should ever have come
here to meet her, for somehow it has brought me to this
state of mind and not to any happiness at all. I'm
doubtful, too, if it has brought any happiness to her. ' '
"That's strange," said John, "and I thought you two
were very happy in your friendship."
"Happiness!" jerked out the other in a full, strong
sneer. "That's a funny word now, and a funny thing.
Do you think that we deserve happiness any more than
those we see working around us in the valley? Not at
all! Rather less do we deserve. Just think of them
giving their blood and sweat so crudely in mortal com-
bat with the fields ! And what does it avail them in the
end? What do they get out of it but the satisfaction
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 225
of a few unkind thoughts and a few low lies? In the
mean living of their own lives they represent futile
expeditions in quest of joy. Yet what brings the great-
est joy it is possible for them to experience? Why,
the fact that another 's hope of happiness has been finally
desolated. If any great disaster should suddenly come
upon one or other of the three of us, upon you or me
or Rebecca Kerr, they would see more glory in the ful-
filment of their spite than in the harvest promise of their
fields. And yet I here assert that these deserve to be
happy. They labor in the hard way it was ordained that
man should labor at Adam's fall, and they attend to
their religion. They pray for happiness, and this is the
happiness that comes to them. Some must be defeated
and driven down from the hills of their dreams so that
the other ones, the deserving and the pious, may be given
material for their reward of joy. That, Brennan, is the
only happiness that ever descends upon the people of
the valley. It may be said that they get their reward
in this life."
Ulick was in one of those moods of eloquence which
always came to him after a visit to Garradrimna, and
when a very torrent of words might be expected to pour
forth from him. John Brennan merely lifted his eye-
brows in mild surprise and said nothing as the other
" Happiness indeed. What have I ever done to de-
serve happiness ? I have not worked like a horse, I have
"I was not thinking of any broad generalizations of
happiness. I was only thinking of happiness in your
relation to Rebecca Kerr."
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Ulick now gave a sudden turn to the conversation:
" Where were you wandering to the night ?" he in-
quired of John Brerman.
"Oh, nowhere in particular just down the road."
"Well, it seems strange that you should have come
this way, past the house of Sergeant McGoldrick."
It appeared as if Ulick had glimpsed the tender spot
upon which John Brennan's thoughts were working and
struck it with the sharp point of his words. John did
not reply, but it could be seen that his cheeks were
blushing even in the gloom that had come towards them
down the road.
"I hope you will be very kind to her, John, when I
am gone from here. She's very nice, and this is the
drear, lonely place for her to be. I expect to be going
away pretty soon."
It seemed extraordinary that this thing should be
happening now. . . . He began to remember how he had
longed for Rebecca last summer, and how his poor yearn-
ing had been reduced to nothing by the favor with which
she looked upon his friend. And later how he had
turned away out of the full goodness of his own heart
and returned again through power of a fateful ac-
cident to his early purpose. And now how the good
influence of Father Considine had just come into his life
to lead him finally into the way for which he had been
intended by his mother from the beginning.
He did not yet fully realize that this quiet and casual
meeting which had been effected because Ulick Shannon
had accidentally come around this way from Garra-
drimna represented the little moment which stood for
the turning-point of his life. But it had certainly
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
moved into being along definite lines of dramatic signif-
Presently Ulick mounted a stile which gave upon a
path leading up through the fields of his uncle Myles
and to the lonely house among the trees. Then it was
true that he was not seeing Rebecca to-night. ... A
great gladness seemed to have rushed in upon John
Brennan because he had become aware of this thing.
And further, Ulick Shannon was going away from the
valley and Rebecca remaining here to be lonely. But
he, who had once so dearly longed for her company,
would be coming and going from the valley daily, and
summer was upon them again. . . . Ulick must have
bade him a " Good-night !" that he had not heard, for
already he could see him disappearing into the sea of
white midst which would seem to have rolled into the
valley from the eternity of the silent places. ... He
was left here now upon this lonely, quiet shore while
his mind had turned into a tumbling sea.
When at last he roused himself and went into the
kitchen he saw that his mother had already settled her-
self to the task of reading a religious paper to his father.
. . . The elder man was sitting there so woebegone by
the few wet sods that were the fire. He was not very
drunk this evening, and the usual wild glint in his eyes
was replaced by the look of one who is having thoughts
of final dissolution. . . . John experienced a little shud-
der with the thought that he did not possess any desire
to speak to his father now.
But his mother had broken in with a question :
"Was that Ulick Shannon was with you outside just
28 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"Yes, mother, it was/'
"He went home very early, didn't he?"
"I suppose it is rather early for him to go home."
"I think 'tis very seldom he bees with Rebecca Kerr
now, whatever 's the reason, what ever 's the reason.''
It was her repetition and emphasis of the final words
which brought about the outburst.
Ned Brennan suddenly flamed up and snarled out:
"Look ye here, Nan Byrne, that's no kind of talk to
be giving out to your grand, fine, educated young fellow
of a son, and he be going on to be a priest. That's the
quare, suggestive kind of talk. But sure 'tis very like
you, Nan Byrne. 'Tis very like you!"
Mrs. Brennan had just been on the point of beginning
to read the religious paper, and, with the thought of all
her reading surging in upon her in one crushing mo-
ment, she felt the cutting rebuff most keenly and showed
her confusion. She made no reply as John went up to
the room where his books were. . . . Long after, as he
tried to recall forgotten, peaceful thoughts, he could
hear his father speaking out of the heat of anger in the
AFTER she had failed to take her tea Rebecca walked
the valley road many times, passing and repassing
their usual meeting place. But no sign of Ulick did she
find. She peered longingly into the sea of white fog,
but he did not come. . . . What in the world was hap-
pening to him at all? Never before had he missed this
night of the week. . . . She did not care to return so
early, for she feared that Mrs. McGoldrick might come
with that awful look of scrutiny she detested. Just to
pass the time she wandered down The Road of the Dead
towards the lake. To-night it seemed so lonely set there
amid the sea of white.
It was strange to think that this place could ever have
had a fair look about it or given pleasure to any person
at all. Yet it was here that John Brennan had loved to
walk and dream. She wondered how it was with him
now. She began to think of the liking he had shown
for her. Maybe he fancied she did not know why he
happened to meet her so often upon the road. But well
did she know well. And to think that he had come to
look up at her window this evening.
Yet even now she was fearful of acknowledging these
things to herself. It appeared as a double sacrilege.
It was an attack upon her love for Ulick and it ques-
tioned the noble intention of Mrs. Brennan in devoting
her son to God. But all chance that it might ever come
230 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
to anything was now over. The ending had been ef-
fected by herself in the parlor of Tommy Williams, the
gombeen-man, and Mrs. Brennan might never be able
to guess the hand she had had in it. It was a thing
upon which she might well pride herself if there grew
in her the roots of pride. But she was not of that sort.
And now she was in no frame of delight at all for the
thought of him had united her unto the thought of Ulick,
and Ulick had not come to her this evening. . . . She
felt herself growing cold in the enveloping mist. The
fir trees were like tall ghosts in the surrounding gloom.
. . . But immediately the lake had lost its aspect of
terror when she remembered what she had done might
have averted the possibility of having John Brennan
ever again to wander lonely. ... And yes, in spite of
any comforting thought, the place would continue to
fill her with a nameless dread. She was shivering and
Suddenly a big pike made a splash among the reeds
and Rebecca gave a loud, wild cry. It rang all down
the lonely aisle of the fir-trees and united its soimd with
that of a lone bird crying on the other side of the lake.
Then it died upon the banks of mist up against the
For a few moments its source seemed to flutter and
bubble within her breast, and then it ended in a long,
sobbing question to herself Why had she cried out at
all? She might have known it was only a fish or some
such harmless thing. And any one within reasonable
distance could have heard the cry and thought it was
the signal of some terrible thing that had happened here
by the lakeside. It was not so far distant from two
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
roads, and who knew but some one had heard? Yet
she could hardly fancy herself behaving in this way
if she had not possessed an idea that it was a lonely
place and seldom that any one went by in the night-
But she hurried away from the feeling of terror she
had caused to fill the place and back towards the house
of Sergeant McGoldrick. As quickly as possible she
got to bed. Here seemed a little comfort. She re-
membered how this had been her place of refuge as a
child, how she felt safe from all ghosts and goblins once
her head was hidden beneath the clothes. And the in-
stinct had survived into womanhood.
Again a series of those fitful, half sleeping and wak-
ing conditions began to pass over her. Side by side
with the most dreadful feelings of impending doom came
thronging memories of glad phases of life through which
she had passed. . . . And to think that this life of hers
was now narrowing towards this end. Were the valley
and its people to behold her final disaster ? Was it to be
that way with her?
She had intended to tell Ulick if he had come to her
this evening, but he had not come, and what was she
to do now? In the slough of her torment she could
not think of the right thing. . . . Maybe if she wrote
an angry letter upbraiding him. . . . But how could
she write an angry letter to him? Yet she must let
him know, and immediately when the dawn had broken
into the room she would write. For there was no use
in thinking of sleeping. She could not sleep. Yes,
when the dawn had broken into the room she would
write surely. But not an angry letter. . . . Very
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
slowly she began to notice the corners of the room
appearing in the new light before her wide open eyes.
And to feel that this was the place she had so fiercely
hated from the first moment of setting foot in it, and
that it was now about to see her write the acknowledg-
ment of her shame. . . . The dawn was a great while in
breaking. ... If he did not well then, what could her
future life hope to be? She began to grow strangely
dizzy as she fell to thinking of it. Dizzy and fearful
as she drew near in mind to that very great abyss.
The leaping-up of the day did not fill her with any of
its gradual delight. . . . She rose with a weariness numb-
ing her limbs. The putting-on of her few clothes was an
immense task. . . . She went to the table upon which she
had written all those letters to her school-companions
which described that " there was nothing like a girl-
friend." She pulled towards her, with a small, trem-
bling hand, the box of Ancient Irish Vellum, upon which
her special letters were always written. Her mind had
focussed itself to such small compass that this letter
seemed more important than any that had ever before
been written in this world.
But for a long time she could not begin. She did not
know by what term of endearment to address him now.
. . . They had been so particularly intimate. . . . And
then it was so hard to describe her condition to him in
poor words of writing with pen and ink upon paper. If
only he had come to her last night it might have been a
task of far less difficulty. A few sobs, a gathering of
her little troubled body unto him, and a beseeching
look up into his face. . . . But it was so hard to put
any single feeling into any separate sentence.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 233
After hours, during which the sun had been mounting
high and bright, she had the letter finished at last and
was reading it over. Some sentences like the following
leaped out before her eyes here within this sickly-looking
room Whatever was the matter with him that he could
not come to her? Surely he was not so blind, and he
with his medical knowledge. He must know what was
the matter with her, and that this was scarcely the time
to be leaving her alone. His uncle, Myles Shannon,
was a very rich man, and did he not remember how
often he had told her how his uncle looked with favor
upon her? Here she included the very words in which
Ulick had many a time described his uncle's opinion
of her "I like that little schoolmistress, Rebecca Kerr!"
"It was all so grand, Ulick, our love and meetings;
but here comes the paying of the penalty, and surely you
will not leave poor little me to pay it in full. You have
enjoyed me, have you not, Ulick?" She was more
immediately personal now, and this was exactly how
the sentences continued: "You know very well what
this will mean to me. I'll have to go away from here,
and where, I ask you, can I go ? Not back to my father 's
house surely, nor to my aunt's little cottage in Donegal.
... I have no money. The poor salary I earn here
is barely able to buy me a little food and clothing and
keep a roof over my head. Did I not often tell you
that when you were away from me there were times
when I could hardly afford the price of stamps? If
it should happen that this thing become public while
I am yet here I could never get another day's teaching,
for Father O'Keeffe would warn every manager in
Ireland against engaging me. But surely, darling, you
234 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
will not allow things to go so far. . . . You will please
come down to see me at 5.30 this evening. You will
find me at the old place upon The Road of the Dead.
Don't you remember that it was there we had our first
Great as the torture of writing it had been, the torture
of reading it was till greater. Some of the lines seemed
to lash out and strike her and to fill her eyes with tears,
and there were some that seemed so hard upon him that
she struck them out, not wishing, as ever, to hurt her
dearest Ulick at all. At one moment she felt a curious
desire to tear it into pieces and let her fate come to her
as it had been ordained from the beginning. . . . But
there was little Euphemia McGoldrick knocking at the
door to be allowed to enter with the breakfast. Who
would ever imagine that it was so late?
She had written a great deal. Why it filled pages and
pages. She hurriedly thrust it into a large envelope that
she had bought for the purpose of sending a card of
greeting to John Brennan at Christmas, thinking better
of it only at the last moment. It was useful now, for
the many sheets were bulky.
"The breakfast, miss!" announced Euphemia as she
left the room.
This was the third meal in twenty-four hours that
Eebecca could make no attempt to take, but, to avert
suspicion, she wrapped up the sliced and buttered bread
in a few leaves from the novelette from which she had
read those desperate passages on the previous evening.
The tea she threw out into the garden. It fell in a shin-
ing shower down over the bright green vegetables. . . .
She put on her dust-coat and, stuffing the letter to Ulick
THE VALLEY OP SQUINTING WINDOWS 235
into one pocket and her uneaten breakfast by way of
a luncheon she would not eat into the other, hurried
out of doors and up the road, for this morning she had
important business in the village before going on to the
Mrs. McGoldrick was set near the foot of the stairs
holding Euphemia and Clementina by the hand, all
three in action there to behold the exit of Rebecca.
This was a morning custom and something in the nature
of a rite. It was the last clout of torture always inflicted
by Mrs. McGoldrick.
Rebecca went on into Garradrimna. The village street
was deserted save by Thomas James, who held solitary
occupation. He was posting the bills for a circus at the
market square. She was excited as she went over to
speak to him and did not notice the eyes of the bespec-
tacled postmistress that were trained upon her from the
office window with the relentlessness of howitzers. She
asked Thomas James would he take a letter from her
to Mr. Ulick Shannon.
"Oh yes, miss; Lord, yes!"
She slipped the letter into his hand when she thought
that no one was looking. She had adopted this mode of
caution in preference to sending it through the Post
Office. She was evidently anxious that it should be
delivered quickly and unread by any other person.
"0 Lord, yes, miss; just as soon as I have an auction
bill posted after this. You know, miss, that Mickeen
Connellan, the auctioneer, is one of my best patrons.
He doesn't pay as well as the circus people, but he
That was in the nature of a very broad hint, but
236 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Rebecca had anticipated it and had the shilling already
prepared and ready to slip into his other hand.
" Thanks, miss!"
With remarkable alacrity Thomas James had "downed
tools" and disappeared into Brannagan 's. Rebecca
could hear the swish of his pint as she went by the door
after having remained a few moments looking at the
lurid circus-bills. Inside, Mrs. Brannagan, the pub-
lican and victualler's wife, took notice that he possessed
the air of a man bent upon business.
"Ah, it's how I'm going to do a little message for the
assistant schoolmistress," he said, taking his matutinal
pinch of salt, for this was his first pint and one could
never tell what might happen.
"Is that so?"
"Aye, indeed; a letter to young Shannon."
"Well now? And why for wouldn't it do to send it
by the post?"
"Ah, mebbe that way wouldn't be grand enough for
her. Mebbe it is what it would be too chape a penny,
you know, for the stamp, and this costs a shilling for
the porter. Give us another volume of this, Mrs. Bran-
nagan, if you please ? Ha-ha-ha ! " He laughed loudly,
but without any mirth, at his own joke and the peculiar
blend of subtlety by which he had marked it.
Mrs. Brannagan was all anxiety and excitement about
"Well now, just imagine!" she said to herself about
forty times as she filled the second pint for Thomas
James. Then she rose up from her bent posture at the
half barrel and, placing the drink before him on the
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 837
"I wonder what would be in that letter. Let ine
"Oh, 'tis only a letter in a big envelope. Aren't you
the inquisitive woman now, Mrs. Branuagan?"
"What 11 you have, Thomas?"
"Ah, another pint, Mrs. Brannagan, thanks!"
His second drink had been despatched with his own
Mrs. Brannagan was a notably hard woman, and he
could not let the opportunity of having her stand him a
drink go by. She was the hardest woman in Garra-
drimna. Her childlessness had made her so. She was
beginning to grow stale and withered, and anything in
the nature of love and marriage, with their possible
results, was to her a constant source of affliction and
Her heart was now bounding within her breast in
"Drink that quick, Thomas, and have another before
the boss comes down." But there was no need to com-
mand him. It had already disappeared. . . . The
fourth pint had found its way to his lips. He was be-
ginning to grow mellow now and to lose his cross-sickness
of the morning.
"Will ye let me see the letter?"
"Certainly, Mrs. Brannagan. Lord, yes!"
He handed it across the counter.
1 ' Such a quare letter ? Oh, I hear the boss coming in
across the yard." . . . She had taken the empty glass
from before Thomas James, and again was it filled. . . .
Her husband stood before her. And this was the mo-
ment she had worked up to so well.
238 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"I'll hand it back to you when he goes out," she whis-
"All right, ma'am!"
Thomas James and Mr. Brannagan fell into a chat
while she went towards the kitchen. She took the letter
from her flat bosom, where she had hastily thrust it and
looked at it from every possible angle. It seemed to
possess a compelling attraction. But she could not open
it here. She would run across to her friend the post-
mistress, who had every appliance for an operation of
the kind. Besides she was the person who had first
right to open it. ... Soon the bespectacled maid and the
barren woman were deep in examination of Rebecca
Kerr's letter to Ulick Shannon. Into their minds was
beginning to leap a terrible joy as they read the lines
it had cost Rebecca immense torture to write.
"This is great, this is great!" said the ancient post-
mistress, clicking her tongue continually in satisfaction.
1 * The cheek of her, mind you, not to send it by the public
post like another. But I knew well there was something
quare when I saw her calloguing with Thomas James at
the market square. ' '
"Wasn't she the sly, hateful, little thing. Why you'd
never have thought it of her?"
"A grand person indeed to have in charge of little,
"Indeed I shouldn't like to have a child if I thought it
was to a purty thing like that she'd be sent to school!"
"Nor me," said the old lady, from whom the promise
of motherhood had departed for many a long year.
They shook in righteous anger and strong detestation
of the sin of Rebecca Kerr, and together they held
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
council as to what might be the best thing to do ? They
closed the letter, and Mrs. Brannagan again stuck it into
her bosom. . . . What should they do? The children
must be saved from contamination anyhow. . . . An
approach to solution of the difficulty immediately pre-
sented itself, for there was Mrs. Wyse herself just pass-
ing down the street with her ass-load of children. Mrs.
Brannagan rushed out of the office and called:
"Mrs. Wyse, I want to see you in private for just a
minute ! ' '
The schoolmistress bent over the back of the trap, and
they whispered for several minutes. At last, out of her
shocked condition, Mrs. Wyse was driven to exclaim:
"Well now, isn't that the limit V
It seemed an affront to her authority that another
should have first discovered it, so she was anxious to
immediately recover her lost position of superiority.
' * Sure I was having my suspicions of her since ever she
come back from the Christmas holidays, and even Monica
McKeon too, although she 's a single girl and not supposed
to know. It's a terrible case, Mrs. Brannagan."
"Terrible, Mrs. Wyse. One of the terriblest ever hap-
pened in the valley. . . . And before the children and
"God bless and save us! But we must only leave it
in Father O'Keeffe's hands. He'll know what is best to
do, never fear. I'll send for him as soon as I get to
There was a note of mournful resignation in her tones
as she moved away in the ass-trap with her children,
like an old hen in the midst of her brood. . . . There
was a peculiar smirk of satisfaction about the lips of
240 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Mrs. Brannagan as she returned to the shop, bent upon
sending the letter on its way once more.
"Much good it'll do her now, the dirty little fool!"
she said in the happiness of some dumb feeling of ven-
geance against one who was merely a woman like her-
self. But she was a woman who had never had a child.
Thomas James was considerably drunk. He had
spent the remainder of the shilling upon porter, and
Mr. Brannagan had stood him another pint.
"Be sure and deliver it safely now, for maybe it's
important!" said Mrs. Brannagan, as she returned the
"It's a great letter anyhow. It's after getting me
nine pints. That's long over half -a-crown 's worth of
drink," he said, laughing foolishly as he wandered out
to do his errand.
It was a hard journey across the rising meadows to the
house of Myles Shannon, where dwelt his nephew Ulick.
Thomas James fell many times and wallowed in the tall,
green grass, and he fell as he went leaping high hedges,
and cut his hands and tore his red face with briars until
it was streaked with blood. He was, therefore, an alto-
gether deplorable figure when he at last presented him-
self at the house of Myles Shannon. Mr. Shannon came
to the door to meet him, and in his fuddled condition he
laughed to himself as he fished the letter out of his
pocket. It was covered red with blood where he had
felt it with his torn hand from time to time to see
whether or not he still retained possession of it.
"From Mr. Brannagan, I suppose," said Mr. Shannon,
thinking it had been written hurriedly by the victualler
jxist fresh from the slaughterhouse and that it was a
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
request for prime beef or mutton from the rich fields
of Scarden. He opened it, for his nephew's name on
the envelope could not be seen through the blood-stains.
He did not notice that it began "My dearest Ulick"
until he read down to the sentences that gave him pause.
. . . Thomas James was coughing insinuatingly beside
him, so he took half-a-crown from his pocket and handed
it to the bedraggled messenger. It was a tremendous
reward, and the man of porter did not fully perceive
it until he had slipped out into the sunlight.
"Be the Holy Farmer!" he stuttered, "another half-
crown's worth of drink, and I after drinking long
more than that already. That was the best letter I ever
got to carry in me life. A few more like it and I'd
either get me death of drink or be a millionaire like
John D. Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegie!'*
Inside the parlor Myles Shannon was reading Re-
becca Kerr's letter with blanched face. . . . Here was
a terrible thing ; here had come to him this great trouble
for the second time. Something the like of this had hap-
pened twenty-five or six years ago, when his brother had
been in the same case with Nan Byrne. Curious how it
should be repeating itself now! He pondered it for a
few moments in its hereditary aspect. But there was
more in it than that. There was the trace of his own
hand determining it. He had encouraged his nephew
with this girl. He had directed him into many reckless
ways just that he might bring sorrow to the heart of
Nan Byrne in the destruction of her son. It was a
wicked thing for him to have done. His own nephew
just to satisfy his desire for revenge. And at the bottom
of things he loved his nephew even as he had loved
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
his brother Henry. But he would try to save him the
results, the pains and penalties of his infatuation, even
as he had tried to save his brother Henry the results of
his. But the girl arid her fate. . . . He would not be
able to forget that until his dying day. . . . For it was
he who had done this thing entirely, done it in cold
blood too because he had heard that John Brennan had
soft eyes for Rebecca Kerr and that, to encourge his
nephew and produce a certain rivalry, might be the
very best means of ruining the fair promise of Nan
Only last night he had heard from Ulick that John
Brennan had entered the college at Ballinamult and that
his prospects never looked so good as at present. ... To
think of that now was to see ho"w just it was that his
scheme should have so resulted, for it had been con-
structed upon a very terrible plan. He had done it to
avenge his defeated love for one girl, and lo! it had
brought another to her ruin.
"Your uncle is a wealthy man." This sentence from
the letter burned before him, and he thought for a mo-
ment that here appeared the full solution of the diffi-
culty. But no. Of what use was that when the dread
thing was about to happen to her? . . . But for all that
he would send her money to-day or to-morrow, in some
quiet way, and tell her the truth and beseech her to go
away before the final disgrace of discovery fell upon her.
His nephew must not know. He was too young to marry
now, least of all, a compulsory marriage after this fash-
ion to a schoolmistress. It was an ascent in the social
standing of the girl surely, for his brother Henry had
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
disgraced himself with a mere dressmaker. But any
connection beyond the regrettable and painful mistake
of the whole thing was out of the question because, for
long years, the Shannons had been almost gentlemen in
Ulick came into the room now.
"Anything strange, uncle?"
' ' Oh, nothing at all, only a letter from Mr. Brannagan
about about the sheep. I suppose you're not going any-
where to-day. Please don't, for I want you to give me a
hand with the lambs after the shearing. And to-night
I'll want you to help me with some letters and accounts
that I've let slip for ever so long. I want you particu-
"All right, uncle!"'
How tractable and obliging his nephew had be-
come. . . . ! Last summer he would not do a thing like
this for any amount of coaxing. He would have business
in the valley at all times. But there was a far Power
that adjusted matters beyond the plans of men. Ulick
had drifted out of the room and Mr. Shannon again
took the letter from his pocket. The sight of the blood
upon it still further helped the color of his thoughts
towards terror. . . . He crossed hurriedly to the bureau
and slipped it beneath the elastic band which held his
letters from Helena Cooper, and Mrs. Brennan's letter
to her, and Mrs. Brennan's letter to his dead brother
Henry. ... It seemed to belong there by right of the
sad quality which is the distinction of all shattered
dreams. . . . And, just imagine, he had considered his
a wonderful scheme of revenge! But now it seemed a
244 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
poor and a mean thing. He could hardly think of it as a
part of the once proud, easy-going Myles Shannon, but
rather the bitter and ugly result of some devilish prompt-
ing that had come to him here in the lone stretches of
his life in this quiet house among the trees.
MORE than ever on this morning was Rebecca aware
that the keen eye of Mrs. Wyse was upon her as
she moved about the schoolroom. One of the bigger girls
was despatched to the other school for Monica McKeon
and Master Donnellan's assistant came in to Mrs. Wyse.
She nodded the customary greeting to Rebecca as she
passed in. This interview was unusual at such an early
hour of the day. But it was never the custom of either
of them to tell her of what they were talking. As she
busied herself teaching the very smallest of the chil-
dren she felt that the eyes of both women were upon
After what appeared to be a very long time Monica
passed out. On this second occasion she looked loftily
across her glasses and gave no nod of acknowledgment
to Rebecca. Rebecca blushed at this open affront. She
felt that Mrs. Wyse must have something against her,
something she had told Monica just now. . . . And now
the principal was exceedingly busy with her pen as if
writing a hurried note. . . . Rebecca heard the high,
coarse voice raised in command:
"Euphemia McGoldrick, I want you !"
Then came the timid "Yes, ma'am !" of Euphemia.
t i Here are two letters, child. Take this one to Father
O'Keefte, your parish priest, and this to your mother,
like a good* child. "
246 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Some fear of unknown things began to stir in the
breast of Rebecca. This connection of Mrs. McGoldrick
with Mrs. Wyse's occupation of the morning seemed to
announce some dragging of her into the matter. But
as yet, although her mind moved tremulously in its ex-
citement, she had, curiously enough, no suspicion of what
was about to happen. It could not be that Mrs. Wyse
had suspected. Oh, not at all. There was still no
danger. But it might be a near thing. . . . Already
she had begun to wonder would Ulick come to-night.
But of course he would come. He was not such
a bad fellow. And he might be taken up with
his own condition just now. He had missed his
examination in Dublin: missed it, maybe, through
his foolishness in coming to see her. . . . But al-
ready she had thoroughly blamed herself for this. . . .
To ease the pain of her mind she went busily about
her work. She knew that the eye of Mrs. Wyse was.
upon her and that the very best way of defeating it
was by putting on this air of industry. The day, in
its half-hour divisions, was passing rapidly towards
A little girl came quickly in to say that Father
O'Keeffe was coming up the road. Rebecca glanced
out of the window and, sure enough, there he was upon
his big, fat, white horse coming into the yard. She
heard his loud cries calling into the Boys' School "for
a chap to come out and hold his horse." When the boy
came to do his bidding he held forth at great length
upon the best way of leading "King Billy" around the
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 247
Then the reverend manager of Tullahanogue Schools
moved into the female portion of the establishment. At
the door he twisted his round face into an aspect of
severity which was still humorous in its alien incongruity.
Here also he removed his hat from his head, which was
white and bald like the apex of an egg above the red
curve of his countenance. It was his custom to visit the
schools of which he was manager, thus precociously to
make up in some way for what he lacked in educa-
tional knowledge and enthusiasm. As his short, squat
figure moved up the passage by the desks, the massive
head bowed low upon the broad chest and the fat fingers
of both hands coiled behind his back, he was not at all
unlike an actor made up as Napoleon Bonaparte. His
voice was disciplined in the accents of militarism and
Kebecca noticed on the instant that to-day he was as
one intensified. He began to slap his legs continuously
with his silver-mounted riding whip. He did not speak
to her as he passed in. But, although it caused her
heart to flutter for a moment, this appeared to her as
no unusual occurrence. He never took notice of her un-
less when she called at the vestry after Mass upon occa-
sion to deliver up a slice of her salary in Dues and Offer-
ings. Then the Napoleonic powerfulness disappeared
and he fell to talking, with laughter in his words, about
the richness of Royal Meath in comparison with the wild
barrenness of Donegal.
He moved up to where Mrs. Wyse was at work. Re-
becca could distinctly hear the loud "Well, what's
your best news?" with which he always prefaced his
conversations. In low whispers they began to communi-
248 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
cate. ... It was not till now that she began to have
immense doubts as to the purpose of his visit, and already
she was trembling in presence of the little children.
"An example of her, Father!"
"Oh yes, an example of her. Nothing less, Mrs.
The words came down to Rebecca clearly through the
deep silence that had fallen upon the school since the
entrance of Father O'Keeffe. The bigger girls were
listening, listening in a great hush of patience for all
that had to be reported when they went home. Each one
was preparing for her respective examination
"Was there any one in the school to-day?"
"Who, the inspector?"
"No, the Priest!"
"Well, anything else?"
"He was talking to Mrs. Wyse."
"And what was he saying?"
"I couldn't hear, mother, so I couldn't."
"And why didn't you listen? What am I slaving
myself to send you to school for?"
And so they were listening with such eagerness now.
They were looking down at Rebecca as if she were the*
object of the whole discussion. Her thoughts were be-
ginning to well into a swirling unconsciousness. . . .
Great sounds, like those of roaring cataracts and the
drumming of mighty armies were rolling up to her ears.
Father O'Keeffe and Mrs. Wyse now came down the
schoolroom together. As they passed Rebecca, Father
O'Keeffe beckoned to her with his riding-whip in the way
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 249
one might call to a very inferior hireling. Shaken by
unique and powerful impulses, she went out into the
hall-way to meet her superiors. . . . Instantaneously
she knew what had happened they knew.
"Well, isn't this a nice thing?" began Father
"Ye might say it's a nice thing, Father!" echoed
"An enormous thing!'*
"A terrible thing! Father!"
"You're a nice lady!" he said, addressing Rebecca
angrily. "To come into a parish where there is none
save decent people to leave a black disgrace upon it and
you going away!"
* * Was ever the like known, Father ? And just imagine
her keeping it so secret. Why we thought there was
nothing in this affair with Ulick Shannon. There was
such an amount of cuteness in the way they used to
meet at times and in places we never knew -of. In the
woods, I suppose ! ' '
Father O'Keeffe was addressing her directly again.
"Why, when I think of the disgrace to this school and
all that, it drives me near mad."
"And, mind you, the shocking insult it is to me and
to the little children."
* * The shocking insult to you and to the little children.
True for you, Mrs. Wyse."
"And when I think of how you have contrived to be-
smirch the fair name of one of the fine, respectable
families of the parish, gentlemen, as you might say, with-
out one blot upon their escutcheon."
"People as high up as the Houlihans of Clonabroney. "
250 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
" People as high up as the Houlihans of Clonabroney,
His eye was upon Kebecca with a sudden gleam.
"When I think of that, I consider it an enormous
offense. ..." She did not flinch before them. She
was thinking only of the way in which they had come
to hear it. ... She was concerned now that Ulick should
not suffer, that his grand family name should not be
dragged down with hers. ... If he had not come to 1
her she would have slipped away without a word. . . .
And now to think that it had become public. The pre-
vious burning of her mind had been nothing to this. . . .
But Father 'Keeffe was still speaking :
"Listen to me, girl! You are to go from hence, but
not, as you may imagine, to the place from whence you
came. For this very evening I intend to warn your
pastor of your lapse from virtue while in our midst, so
that you may not return to your father's house and have
no more hope of teaching in any National school within
the four seas of Ireland. ' '
* ' That is only right and proper, Father ! ' ' put in Mrs.
Rebecca was not listening or else she might have shud-
dered within the shadow of the torture his words held for
her. In these moments she had soared far beyond them.
. . . Through the high mood in which she was accepting
her tragedy she was becoming exalted. . . . What glo-
rious moments there would be, what divine compensation
in whispering of the torture surrounding its beginning to
the little child when it came?
"So now, Rebecca Kerr, I command you to go forth
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 251
from this school and from the little children that you
corrupt towards your own abomination by further pres-
ence among them."
As he moved angrily out of the school she moved
quietly, and without speaking a word, to take her coat
and hat down from the rack.
"Oh, wait!" commanded Mrs. Wyse, "you must not
leave until three, until you have made an example of
yourself here in a way that all the children may bring
home the story. God knows it will be the hard thing
for them to be telling their mothers when they go home.
The poor little things !"
Rebecca stood there desolately alone in the hall-way
through the remainder of the afternoon. In one aspect
she appeared as a bold child being thus corrected by a
harsh superior. On many more occasions than appeared
absolutely necessary Monica McKeon passed and repassed
her there as she stood so lonely. The assistant of the
Boys' School was a model of disdain as, with her lip
curled, she looked away out over her glasses. And ever
and anon Mrs. Wyse passed in and out, muttering mourn-
fully to herself :
"The cheek of that now, before the children and all!"
And the elder girls moved about her in a procession of
sneering. They knew, and they were examining her for
the purpose of giving full accounts when they went
But, occasionally, some of the little ones would come
and gaze up into her eyes with wild looks. Although
they did not know why, they seemed to possess for her
an immense, mute pity.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"Poor Miss Ken*!" they would say, stroking her
dress, but their big sisters would come and whisk them
" Don't touch her. She's dirty " Then Monica
would pass again. At last she heard the merciful stroke
WHEN John Brennan went to his room after his
father's outburst it was with the intention of
doing some preparation for the morrow 's work at the col-
lege; but although he opened several books in turn, he
could feel no quickening of knowledge in his mind. . . .
There she was again continually recurring to his thoughts.
And now she was far grander. This was the fear that
had always been hidden in his heart, that somehow her
friendship with Ulick was not a thing that should have
happened. But he had considered it a reality he could
not attempt to question. Yet he knew that but for Ulick
she must be very near to him. And Ulick had admitted
his unworthiness, and so the separation was at an end.
It was surprising that this should have happened now.
His mind sprang back to all that tenderness with which
his thoughts of her had been surrounded through these
long days of dreaming, when he had contrived to meet
her, as if by accident, on her way from school.
All through the next day his heart was upon her ; the
thought of her would give peace. Into every vacant
moment she would come with the full light of her pres-
ence. He had suddenly relapsed into the mood that had
imprisoned him after the summer holidays. He stood
aloof from Father Considine and did not wish to see him
through the whole of his long day in the college at Ballin-
amult. . . . All the way home he pictured her. She was
254 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
luring him now as she had always lured him towards
a fairer vision of the valley.
He noticed how the summer was again flooding over
the fields like a great river spilling wide. It was a
glorious coincidence that she should be returning to him
now, a creature of brightness at a time of beauty.
The road seemed short this pleasant afternoon, and the
customary feeling of dusty weariness was not upon him
as he leapt lightly off the bicycle at his mother's door.
Mrs. Brennan came out to meet him eagerly. This was
no unusual occurrence now that he had again begun to
ascend the ladder of the high condition she had planned
for him. She was even a far prouder woman now, for,
somehow, she had always half remembered the stain of
charity hanging over his uprise in England. Besides
this he was nearer to her, moving intimately through
the valley, a living part of her justification. . . . Her
fading eyes now looked out tenderly at her son. There
seemed to be a great light in them this afternoon, a
great light of love for him. ... He was moved beneath
their gaze. And still she continued to smile upon him in
a weak way as within the grip of some strong excitement.
He saw when he entered that his dinner was not set out
as usual on the white table in the kitchen. . . . She
brought him into the sewing-room. And still she had the
same smile trembling upon her lips and the same light in
her eyes. . . . All this was growing mysterious and
oppressive. But his mood was proof against sad influ-
ences. It must be some tale of good fortune come to
their house of which his mother had now to tell.
"D'ye know what, John? The greatest thing ever is
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 255
"Is that a fact, mother?' 1
"Though mebbe 'tis not right for me to tell you and
you all as one as a priest, I may say. But sure you're
bound to hear it, and mebbe a little knowledge of the
kind might not be amiss even to one in your exalted
station. And then to make it better, it concerns two very
near friends of yours, Mr. Ulick Shannon and Miss Re-
becca Kerr, I thank you ! ' '
John Brennan's mind leaped immediately to interest.
Were they gone back to one another, and after what he
had thought to-day? This was the question his lips
carried inwardly to himself.
"I don't know how I can tell you. But Father
'Keeffe was at school to-day in a great whet. He made
a show of her before the children, Mrs. Wyse and Miss
McKeon, of course, giving him good help. He dis-
missed her, and told her to go about her business.. He'll
mebbe speak of her publicly from the altar on Sun-
"And what is it, mother, what ?"
"Oh, she's going to have a misfortune, me son. She's
going to be a mother, God bless us all ! and not married
or a ha'porth!"
"But sure she put in for nothing else, with her going
up and all that to Dublin to have her dresses made, in-
stead of getting them done nice and quiet and modest
and respectable be me. I may tell you that I was more
than delighted to hear it."
"Well now, and the"
John was biting his lips in passion, but she took
another view of it as she interrupted him.
256 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
"Ah, you may well ask who he is, who but that scoun-
drel Ulick Shannon, that I was never done asking you
not to speak to. You were young and innocent, of course,
and could not be expected to know what I know. But
mebbe you'll avoid him now, although I think he won't be
long here, for mebbe Father O'Keeffe'll run him out of
the parish. Maybe not though, for his uncle has bags of
money. Indeed I wouldn't put it apast him if he was the
lad encouraged him to this, for the Shannons were always
blackguards in their hearts. . . . But it'll be great tc
hear Father O'Keeffe on Sunday. I must be sure and
go to his Mass. Oh, it'll be great to hear him !"
"Yes, I suppose it will be great to hear him."
John spoke out of the gathering bitterness of his heart.
"I wonder what 11 become of her now. I wonder
where '11 she go. Oh, to Dublin, I suppose. She was al-
ways fond of it. ' '
His mother was in a very ecstasy of conjecture as to
the probable extent of Rebecca's fate. And this was the
woman who had always expressed a melting tenderness in
her actions towards him. This was his mother who had
spoken now with all uncharitableness. There was such
an absence of human pity in her words as most truly
appalled him. . . . Very quickly he saw too that it was
upon his own slight connection with this tragic thing her
mind was dwelling. This was to him now a token, not of
love, but rather of enormous selfishness. . . . Her eyes
were upon him still, watering in admiration with a weak
gleam. . . . The four walls seemed to be moving in to
crush him after the manner of some medieval torture
chamber. . . . Within them, too, was beginning to rise
a horrid stench as of dead human things. . . . This
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 257
ghastliness that had sprung up between mother and son
seemed to have momentarily blotted out the conscious-
ness of both. They stared at one another now with
glassy, unseeing eyes.
After three Rebecca took her lonely way from the
school. Neither Mrs. Wyse nor Monica McKeon had a
word for her at parting. Neither this woman, who was
many times a mother, nor this girl who might yet be a
mother many times. They were grinning loudly ana
passing some sneer between them, as they moved away
from one another alone.
Down the valley road she went, the sunlight dazzling
her tired eyes. A thought of something that had hap-
pened upon this day last year came with her remembrance
of the date. It was the first anniversary of some slight,
glad event that had brought her happiness, and yet what)
a day it was of dire happening? Just one short year
ago she had not known the valley or Ulick or this fearful
thing. . . . There were friends about her .on this day last
year and the sound of laughter, and she had not been
so far distant from her father's house. And, God! to
think that now she was so much alone.
Suddenly she became aware that there was some one
running by her side and calling "Miss Kerr! Miss
"Oh, Janet Comaskey!" she said, turning. "Is it
' ' Yes, Miss Kerr. I want to tell you that I was talking
to God last night, and I was telling Him about you. He
asked me did I like you, and I said I did. 'And so do
I/ said He. 'I like Miss Kerr very much,' He said, 'for
she's very nice, very, very nice.' "
258 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Rebecca had never disliked this queer child, but she
loved her now, and bending down, warmly kissed her
* * Thanks, miss. I only wanted to tell you about God/'
said Janet, dropping behind.
Rebecca was again alone, but now she was within sight
of the house of Sergeant McGoldrick. It seemed to be
dozing there in the sunlight. She began to question her-
self did those within already know. . . . ? Now that the
full publicity of her condition seemed imminent an ex-
traordinary feeling of vanity was beginning to take pos-
session of her. She took off her dust-coat and hung it
upon her arm. Thus uncloaked she would face the eyes
of Mrs. McGoldrick and her daughters, Euphemia and
Clementina, and the eyes, very probably, of John Ross
McGoldrick and Neville Chamberlain McGoldrick. . . .
But when she entered the house she experienced the
painful stillness of a tomb-like place. There was no one
to be seen. She went upstairs with a kind of faltering in
her limbs, but her head was erect and her fine eyes were
flashing. . . . Even still was she soaring beyond and
beyond them. Her eye was caught by a note pinned upon
her door. It seemed very funny and, despite her present
condition of confusion and worry, she smiled, for this was
surely a melodramatic trick that Mrs. McGoldrick had
acquired from the character of her reading. . . . Still
smiling, she tore it open. It read like a proclamation,
and was couched in the very best handwriting of Ser-
1 'Miss Kerr,
Rev. Louis 'Keeffe, P.P., Garradrimna, has given
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 259
notice that, on account of certain deplorable circum-
stances, we are to refuse you permission to lodge with
us any longer. This we hasten to do without any
regret, considering that, to oblige you at the instiga-
tion of Father 'Keeffe, we broke the ^Regulation of
the Force, which forbids the keeping of lodgers by
any member of that body. We hereby give you
notice to be out of this house by 6 p.m. on this even-
ing, May , 19 , having, it is understood, by
that time packed up your belongings and discharged
your liabilities to Mrs. McGoldrick. Father
'Keeffe has, very magnanimously, arranged that
Mr. Charles Clarke is to call for you with his motor
and take you with all possible speed to the station
Sylvester McGoldrick (Sergeant, R.LC.)."
The official look of the pronouncement seemed only to
increase its gloomy finality, but the word "magnani-
mously," fresh from the dictionary at the Barrack, made
her laugh outright. The offense she had committed was
unnamed, too terrible for words. She was being sen-
tenced like a doomed Easter rebel. . . . Yet, even still,
she was not without some thought of the practical as-
pect of her case. She owed thirty shillings to Mrs.
McGoldrick. This would leave her very little, out of
the few pounds she had saved from her last instalment
of salary, with which to face the world. This, of course,
if Ulick did not come. . . . And here was her dinner, set
untidily in the stuffy room where the window had not
been opened since the time she had left it this morning
in confusion. And the whole house was quiet as the
260 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
grave. She never remembered to have heard it so
quiet at any other time. It seemed as if all this silence
had been designed with a studied calculation of the pain
it would cause. There was no kindness in this woman
either, although she too was a mother and had young
daughters. It appeared so greatly uncharitable that
in these last terrible moments she could not cast from
her the small and pitiful enmity she had begun upon
the evening of Rebecca's arrival in the valley. She
would not come even now and help her pack up her
things, and she so weary? . . . But it was easily done.
The few articles that had augmented her wardrobe
since her coming to the valley would go into the basket
she had used to carry those which were barely necessary
for her comfort when she went to that lonely cottage
in Donegal. . . . The mean room was still bare as when
she had first come to it. She had not attempted to
decorate it. In a pile in one corner stood the full series
of Irish School Weeklies and Weldon's Ladies' Journals
she had purchased since her coming here. She had little
use for either of these publications now, little use for the
one that related to education or the other that related
There came a feverish haste upon her to get done with
her preparations for departure, and soon they were com-
pleted. She had her trunk corded and all ready. She
had no doubt that Ulick would meet her upon The Road
of the Dead at 5.30, the hour she had named in the letter
of this morning. It was lucky she had so accurately
guessed her possible time of departure, although some-
how she had had no notion this morning of leaving so
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 261
soon. But already it was more than 4.30 by her little
wristlet watch. She put on her best dress, which had
been left out on the bed, and redid her hair. It was
still the certain salvage from the wreck she was becom-
ing. Ulick or any other man, for all he had ruined her,
must still love her for that hair of gold. It needed no
crown at all, but a woman's vanity was still hers, and she
put on a pretty hat which Ulick had fancied in Dublin.
She had worn it for the first time last summer in Done-
gal, and it became her better than any hat she had ever
worn. . . . What would they say if they saw her moving
about in this guise, so brazenly as it seemed, when she
might be spoken of from the altar on Sunday?
Now fell upon her a melancholy desire to see the
chapel. There was yet time to go there and pray just
as she had thought of praying on her first evening on
coming to Garradrimna. She took a final glance at the
little, mean room. It had not been a room of mirth for
her, and she was not sorry to leave it there was the
corded trunk to tell the tale of its inhospitality. She
took the money for Mrs. Goldrick from her purse and
put it into an envelope. . . . Going downstairs she left
it upon the kitchen table. There was no one to be seen,
but she could hear the scurrying of small feet from
her as if she were some monstrous and forbidden thing.
As she went up the bright road there was a flickering
consciousness in her breast that she was an offense against
the sunlight, but this feeling fled away from her when she
went into the chapel and knelt down to pray. Her mind
was full of her purpose, and she did not experience the
distraction of one single, selfish thought. But when she
262 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
put her hands up to her face in an attitude of piety
she felt that her face was burning.
It was a day for confessions, but there were few people
in the chapel, and those not approaching the confes-
sionals. The two young- curates, Father Forde and
Father Fagan, were moving about the quiet aisles, each
deeply intent upon the reading of his office. They were
nearer the altar than to her, but for all the air of
piety in which they seemed to be enveloped, they de-
tected her presence immediately and simultaneously.
Soon they began to extend their back and forward
pacing to include her within the range of their side-
long vision. . . . By the time she had got half way
around her little mother-of-pearl rosary they were mov-
ing past her and towards one another at her back.
She was saying her poor prayers as well as she could,
but there they were with their heads working up and
down as they looked alternately at her and at their
holy books. . . . Just as she got to the end of the last
decade she was conscious that they had come together
and were whispering behind her. ... It was not until
then that she saw the chapel for what it stood in regard
to her. It was the place where, on Sunday next, mean
people would smirk in satisfaction as they sat listening
in all their lack of charity and fulness of pride. . . .
The realization brought the pulsing surge of anger
to her blood and she rose to come away. But when
she turned around abruptly there were the two curates
with their eyes still fixed upon her. . . . She did not
meet their looks full straight, for they turned away as
if to avoid the contamination of her as she ran from the
House of God.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
When John Brennan reached a point in his disgust
where further endurance was impossible he broke away
from the house and from his mother. He went out
wildly through the green fields.
But he would see her. He would go to her, for surely
she had need of him now. ... If Ulick did not come.
... And there was much in his manner and conversa-
tion of the previous night to make it doubtful. ... If he
did not take her away from this place and make her
his own to protect and cherish, there was only one
course left open. . . . He knew little of these things,
for he knew little of the ways of life, but instinctively
he felt that Rebecca would now cling to Ulick and that
Ulick would be a great scoundrel if he spurned her
from him. And what, he asked himself, would he, John
Brennan, do in that case?
No answer would spring directly to his thoughts, but
some ancient, primeval feeling was stirring in his heart
the answer that men have held to be the only answer from
the beginning of the world. But that was a dreadful
thing which, in its eddying circles of horror, might com-
pass his own end also.
But, maybe the whole story was untrue. He had
heard his mother speak many a time after the same
fashion, and there was never one case of the kind but
had proved untrue. Yet it was terrible that no answer
would come flashing out from his wild thoughts, and
already he had reached The Eoad of the Dead.
His wandering eyes had at last begun to rest upon a
wide, green field. He saw the wind and sun conspiring
to ripple the grass into the loveliest little waves. He had
loved this always, and even the present state of his mind
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
did not refuse the sensation of its beauty. He went and
leaned across the field gate to gaze upon it.
He turned suddenly, for there was a step approaching
him along the road. Yes, surely it was she. It was
Rebecca Kerr herself coming towards him down The
Road of the Dead. . . . She was smiling, but from the
dark, red shadows about her eyes it was easy to see that
she had quite recently been crying.
"Good evening, John Brennan!" she said.
"Good evening, Miss Kerr!"
There was a deep touch of concern, turning to anxiety,
almost a rich tenderness in his words. She heard them
for what they were, and there came to her clearly their
accents of pity. . . . For the moment neither seemed
capable of finding speech. . . . Her eyes were searching
The Road of the Dead for the man she expected to meet
her here. But he was not coming. In the silence that
had fallen between them John Brennan had clearly
glimpsed the dumb longing that was upon her. . . .
He felt the final gloom that was moving in around her
... yet he could not find speech.
"I'm going away from the valley," said Rebecca.
He made some noise in his throat, but she could hear
no distinct word.
"It was not you I expected to meet here this evening.
It is so strange how we have met like this. ' '
"I just came out for a walk," he stammered, at a loss
for something better to say.
"I'm glad we have met," she said, "for this is the
It was easy to see that her words held much meaning
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
for herself and him. . . . He seemed to be nearer the
brink as her eyes turned from him again to search the
"He will not come," she said, and there was a kind of
wretched recklessness in her tones. ' ' I know he will not
come, for that possibility has never been." She grew
more resigned of a sudden. She saw that John Brennan
too was searching the road with his eyes. . . . Then he
knew the reason why she was going away.
He was such a nice boy, and between his anxious
watching now for her sake he was gazing with pity into
her eyes. . . . He must know Ulick too as a man knows
his friend, and that Ulick would not come to her in this
her hour of trial. . . . The knowledge seemed the more
terrible since it was through John Brennan it had come ;
and yet it was less terrible since he did not disdain her
for what she had done. She saw through his excuse.
He had come this way with the special purpose of seeing
her, and if he had not met her thus accidentally he must
inevitably have called at the house of Sergeant McGold-
rick to extend his farewell. She was glad that she had
saved him this indignity by coming out to her own
disappointment. . . . She was sorry that he had again
returned to his accustomed way of thinking of her, that
he had again departed from the way into which she had
attempted to direct him.
And now there loomed up for her great terror in this
thought. Yet she could read it very clearly in the way he
was looking so friendly upon her. . . . Why had he al-
ways looked upon her in this way? Surely she had
never desired it. She had never desired him. It was
266 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Ulick she had longed for always. It was Ulick she had
longed for this evening, and it was John Brennan who
had come. . . . Yes, how well he had come ? It was very
simple and very beautiful, this action of his, but in its
simple goodness there was a fair promise of its high
desolation. It appeared that she stood for his ruin also,
and, even now, in the mounting moments of her fear,
this appeared as an ending far more appalling. . . .
She was coming to look at her own fate as a thing she
might be able to bear, but there was something so vastly
filled with torture in this thought. . . . Whenever she
would look into the eyes of the child and make plans
for its little future she would think of John Brennan
and what had happened to him.
She felt that they had been a long time standing here
at this gate, by turns gazing anxiously up and down the
road, by turns looking vacantly out over the sea of grass.
Time was of more account than ever before, for was it
not upon this very evening that she was being banished
from the valley?
"I must go now," she said; "he will never come."
He did not answer, but moved as if to accompany her.
. . . She grew annoyed as she observed his action.
"No, no, you must not come with me now. You must
not speak with me again. I have placed myself forever
beyond your friendship or your thought!"
As she extended her hand to him her heart was moved
by a thousand impulses.
"Good-by, John Brennan!" she said simply.
"Good-by, Rebecca!" said he at last, finding speech
by a tremendous effort. . . . And without another word
they parted there on The Road of the Dead.
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 267
Outside the garden gate of Sergeant McGoldrick
Charlie Clarke was waiting for her with his motor-car.
Her trunk had been put in at the back. This was an
unholy job for a saintly chauffeur, but it was Father
O'Keeffe's command and his will must be done. When
the news of it had been communicated to him he had
said a memorable thing:
"Well, now, the quare jobs a religious man has some-
times to do; but maybe these little punishments are by
way of satisfaction for some forgotten and far-distant
Eebecca understood his anxiety to have her off his
hands as she saw him jump in behind the wheel at her
approach. She got in beside her poor trunk, and pres-
ently the car would be ready to start. There was not a
trace of any of the McGoldrick family to be seen. . . .
But there was a sudden breaking through the green hedge
upon the other side of the road, and Janet Comaskey
stood beside the car. Rebecca was surprised by the sud-
den appearance of the little, mad girl at this moment.
' ' Miss Kerr, Miss Kerr ! " she called. ' ' I got this from
God. God told me to give you this!"
The car started away, and Rebecca saw that the super-
scription on the letter she had been handed was in the
pronounced Vere Foster style of Master Donnellan.
Doubtless it was some long-winded message of farewell
from the kind-hearted master, and she would not open
it now. It would be something to read as she moved
away towards Dublin.
Just now her eyes were being filled by the receding
pageant of the valley, that place of all earth's places
which had so powerfully arrayed its villainy against her.
268 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
. . . And to think that he had not come. ... It was the
Valley of Hinnom. . . . Yes, to think that he had not
come after all she had been to him, after all the love of
her heart she had given him. No word could ever, ever
pass between them again. They were upon the very
brink of the eternity of separation. She knew now that
for all the glory in which she had once beheld him, he
must shrivel down to the bitter compass of a little, pain-
ful memory. Oh, God ! to think he had not replied to her
letter, and the writing of it had given her such pain.
They were at the station of Kilaconnaghan. Charlie
Clarke had not spoken all through the journey, but now
he came up to her indignantly, as if very vexed for being
compelled to speak to her at all, and said : * ' The fare is
The words smote her with a little sense of shock. She
had been expecting something by way of climax. She
was very certain in her consciousness that the valley
would not let her slip thus quietly away. A pound for
the journey, although it was Father O'Keeffe who had
engaged the car. She must pay this religious robber a
huge price for the drive. There rushed through her
mind momentarily a mad flash of rebellion. The valley
was carrying its tyranny a little too far. . . . She would
not pay. . . . But almost immediately she was searching
for a note in her purse. . . . There were so very few of
them now. Yet she could not leave the valley with any
further little stain upon her. They would talk of a thing
like this for years and years.
With a deadly silence hanging over him and fearful
thoughts coming into his mind Myles Shannon had kept
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 269
himself and his nephew Ulick at work all through the
day. After tea in the lonely dining-room he fetched in
his inky account books, which had been neglected for
many a month. His nephew would here have work to
occupy him for the remainder of the evening and prob-
ably far into the night. Ulick was glad of the task, for
his mind was very far from being at ease.
Then Mr. Shannon took 100 from the old-fashioned
bureau in the parlor, which held, with the other things,
all his papers and accounts, and while the evening was
yet high went down towards the house of Sergeant Mc-
Goldrick to see Rebecca Kerr. Around a bend of the
road he encountered Charlie Clarke on his way back from
Kilaconnaghan, where he had been delayed upon bazaar
The saintly chauffeur at once put on the brakes. This
was Mr. Myles Shannon and some one worth speaking to.
He bowed a groveling salute.
"You're out pretty late?" said Mr. Shannon.
1 * Oh, yes ! ' ' And then he went on to describe his work
of the evening. He felt inclined to offer his condolence
to Mr. Shannon in a most respectful whisper, but thought
better of it at the last moment.
"And no one knows where she has gone?"
"No one. She has disappeared from the valley."
* ' She went away very suddenly. ' '
"Yes, Father O'Keeffe saw that, in the public interest,
she should disappear after this fashion. The motor was
a help, you know."
Charlie Clarke offered to drive Mr. Shannon to his
home. No word passed between them as they drew up
the avenue to the lonely house among the trees.
270 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
In the train, moving on towards Dublin, Rebecca Kerr
had just opened the letter from Master Donnellan. It
contained a 5 note. . . . This was like a cry of mercy
and pardon for the valley. . . . The rich fields of Meath
were racing by.
THERE was a curious hush about the lake next even-
ing, although the little cottage of Hughie Murtagh
was swept by winds which stirred mournfully through
all the bright abundance of early summer. Even the
orange-blossoms of the furze seemed to put on an aspect
of surrender. There was no challenge in their color
now; they looked almost white against a somber sunset.
John Brennan moped about among the fir-trees. He
came to a stand-still by one that had begun to decay
and which was even more mournful in its failure to con-
tribute another plumed head to the general effect of
mourning. But it seemed to shake enraged at this im-
potence in its poor foundation over the deserted warren,
from which Shamesy Golliher had long since driven the
little rabbits towards that dark Chicago of slaughter
which was represented to them by Garradrimna.
The same color of desolation was upon the reeds which
separated him from the water. The water itself had,
beneath its pretense of brightness upon the surface, the
appearance of ooze, as if it had come washing over the
slime of dead things.
It was here that John Brennan had come to wait for
Ulick Shannon, and, as he waited, his mood became that
of his surroundings. ... He fell to running over what
had happened to him. Alternately, in the swirl of his
consciousness, it appeared as the power of the valley and
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
as the Hand of God. Yet, whatever it might be in truth,
this much was certain. It had reduced his life to ruins.
It was a fearful thing, and he shuddered a little while he
endeavored to produce a clear picture of it for the chas-
tisement as well as the morbid excitement of his imagina-
But there came instead a far different picture, which
seemed to have the effect of lifting for a moment the
surrounding gloom. He saw Rebecca Kerr again as upon
many an afternoon they had met. For one brave moment
he strove to recover the fine feeling that had filled him
at those times. But it would not come. Something had
happened, something terrible which soiled and spoiled
For love of her he had dreamed even unto the desire
of defeating his mother's love. And yet there was no
triumph in his heart now, nothing save defeat and a great
weariness. Neither his mother nor Rebecca Kerr were
any longer definite hopes upon which his mind might
dwell. . . . His thoughts were running altogether upon
Ulick Shannon. It was for Ulick he waited now in this
lonely, wind-swept place, like any villain he had ever
seen depicted upon the cover of a penny dreadful in
Phillips 's window when he was a boy. He now saw him-
self fixed in his own imagination after this fashion.
Ulick Shannon would soon come. There was no doubt of
this, for a definite appointment had been made during
the day. He had remained at home from the college in
Ballinamult to bring it about. Soon they would be en-
deavoring to enter what must be the final and tragic bye-
way of their story. And it must be all so dreadfuly in-
teresting, this ending he had planned. . . . Now the
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 273
water came flowing towards him more rapidly as if to
hurry the tragedy. It came more thickly and muddily
and with long, billowy strides as if it yearned to gather
some other body still holding life to its wild breast. Its
waters kept flowing as if from some wide wound that
ached and would not be satisfied; that bled and called
aloud for blood forever.
Now also the evening shadows were beginning to creep
down the hills and with them a deeper hush was coming
upon the wild longing of all things. Yet it was no hush
of peace, but rather the concentration of some horrible
purpose upon one place.
"I am going away on Friday," Ulick had written in
one of the two notes that had been exchanged between
them by the messenger during the day, "and I would
like to see you for what must, unfortunately, be the last
time. I am slipping away unknown to my uncle or to
any one, and it is hardly probable that I will be seen
in these parts again. "
At length he beheld the approach of Ulick down the
long Hill of Annus. . . . His spirit thrilled within him
and flamed again into a white flame of love for the girl
who was gone. . . . And coming hither was the man who
had done this thing. . . . The thickest shadows of the
evening would soon be gathered closely about the scene
they were to witness. . . . The very reeds were rustling
now in dread.
The lake was deep here at the edge of the water. . . .
And in the rabbit-warren beneath his feet were the heavy
pieces of lead piping he had transported in the night.
He had taken them from his father's stock of plumber's
materials, that moldy, unused stock which had so long
274 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
lain in the back yard and which, in a distant way,
possessed an intimate connection with this heaped-up
story. ... In a little instant of peculiar consciousness he
wondered whether it would be pliable enough. . . . There
were pieces for the legs and pieces for the arms which
would enfold those members as in a weighty coffin. . . .
And hidden nearer to his hand was the strangely-shaped,
uncouth weapon his father had used many a time with
such lack of improvement upon the school slates and with
which one might kill a man. . . . The body would rest
well down there beneath the muddy waters. . . . There
would be no possibility of suspicion falling upon him,
for the story of Rebecca Kerr's disgrace and Ulick Shan-
non 's connection with it had already got about the valley.
. . . He had been listening to his mother telling it to
people all day. . . . Ulick 7 s disappearance, in a way self-
effacing and unnamed, was hourly expected. This op-
portunity appeared the one kind trick of Fate which had
been so unkind to the passionate yearnings of John
But Ulick Shannon was by his side, and they were talk-
ing again as friends of different things in the light way
of old. . . . Their talk moved not at all within the
shadows of things about to happen presently. . . . But
the shadows were closing in, and very soon they must
fall and lie heavily upon all things here by the lake.
"Isn't it rather wonderful, Brennan, that I should be
going hence through the power of a woman ? It is very
strange how they always manage to have their revenge,
how they beat us in the long run no matter how we may
plume ourselves on a triumph that we merely fancy.
Although we may degrade and rob them of their treasure,
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 275
ours is the final punishment. Do you remember how I
told you on that day we were at the * North Leinster
Arms, ' in Ballinamult, there was no trusting any woman ?
Not even your own mother! Now this Rebecca Kerr,
The sentence was never finished. John Brennan had
not spoken, but his hand had moved twice to lift the
uncouth weapon from the foot of the tree and again to
strike the blow. . . . The mold of unhappy clay from
which the words of Ulick had just come was stilled for-
ever. The great cry which struggled to break from the
lips resulted only in a long-drawn sigh that was like a
queer swoon. The mournful screech of a wild bird fly-
ing low over the lake drowned the little gust of sound.
. . . Then the last lone silence fell between the two young
men who had once been most dear companions.
No qualms of any kind came to the breast of John
Brennan. He had hardened his heart between the leap-
ing flames of Love and Hate, and there was upon him now
the feeling of one who has done a fine thing. He was in
the moment of his triumph, yet he was beginning to be
amazed by his sudden power and the result of his deci-
sion. . . . That he, John Brennan, should have had it in
him to murder his friend. . . . But no, it was his enemy
he had murdered, the man who had desecrated the beauty
of the world. . . . And there was a rare grandeur in
what he had done. It was a thing of beauty snatched
from the red hands of Death.
Yet as he went about his preparations for submerging
the body he felt something akin to disgust for this the
mean business of the murder. . . . Here was where the
beauty that had been his deed snapped finally from exist-
276 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
ence in his consciousness and disappeared from him.
Henceforth gray thought after gray thought came
tumbling into his mind. Ulick had not been a bad fellow.
He had tried to be kind to him all the motor-drives and
the walks and talks they had had. Even the bits of days
and nights spent together in Garradrimna. . . . And how
was Ulick to know of his affection for Rebecca Kerr?
There had never been the faintest statement of the fact
between them; his whole manner and conversation and
the end for which he was intended forbade any sus-
picion of the kind. In fact to have had such a doubt
would have been a sin in the eyes of many a Catholic.
. . . The legs and arms were well weighted now. . . .
This might not have happened if his mother had been
attended in the right spirit of filial obedience. . . . But
with the arrogance of youth, which he now realized for
the first time, he had placed himself above her opinion
and done what he had desired at the moment. And
why had he done so? ... She would seem to have had
foreboding of all this in the way she had looked upon him
so tenderly with her tired eyes many a time since his
memorable home-coming last summer. She had always
been so fearfully anxious. . . . Here must have been the
melancholy end she had seen at the back of all dreaming.
. . . He could feel that sad look clearly, all dimmed by
The body was a great weight. He strove to lift it in
his arms in such a way that his clothes might not be soiled
by the blood. . . . His face was very near the pale, dead
face with the red blood now clotting amongst the hair.
. . . He was almost overpowered by his burden as he
dragged it to the water's edge. ... It was a very fearful
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 277
thing to look at just as the water closed over it with a low,
gurgling sound, as if of mourning, like the cry of the bird
in the moment the murder had been done.
As he staggered back from the sighing reeds he noticed
that the ground was blood-drenched beneath the tree.
. . . But he was doing the thing most thoroughly. In a
frenzy of precautionary industry he began to hack away
the earth with the slating implement very much as
Shamesy Golliher might hack it in search of a rabbit.
Later he seemed to put on the very appearance of
Shamesy himself as, with bent body, he slouched away
across the ridge of the world. He too had just effected a
piece of slaughter and Garradrimna seemed to call him.
WHEN he came out upon the valley road he was no
longer the admirable young man he had been less
than a year since. He was a broken thing, and he was
stained by another's blood. He was marked eternally
by what he had done, and there was upon him a degrada-
tion unspeakable. He was an offense against existence
and against the gathering, blessed gloom of the quiet
evening. . . . He had murdererd one who had been his
friend, and it was a thing he might never be able to
forget. The body, with all the lovely life so recently
gone from it, he had weighted and sunk beneath the sur-
face of the lake. ... It was down there now, a poor,
dead thing among the ooze of dead things from which
the water had taken its color and quality. The wild
spirit that had been Ulick Shannon, so contradictory in
its many aspects, was now soaring lightly aloft upon the
wings of clean winds and he, John Brennan, who had
effected this grand release, felt the weights still heavy
about his heart.
He came on a group of children playing by the road-
side. It seemed as if they had been driven across his
path to thwart him with their innocence. He instantly
remembered that other evening when he had been pained
to hear them express the ugly, uncharitable notions of
their parents regarding a child of another religion.
Now they were playing merrily as God had intended
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 279
them to play, and religion, with its tyranny of compul-
sion towards thoughts of death and sin, seemed distant
from them, and distant was it from him too. His mind
was empty of any thought. Would no kindly piece of
imagination come down to cool his spirit with its grace
or lift from his heart the oppression of the leaden weights
he had bound about the body of Ulick Shannon? . . .
At last he had remembrance of his mother. It had been
borne in upon him during some of his lonely cycle-rides
to and from Ballinamult that things should not be, some-
how, as they were. He was moving along exalted ways
while his mother labored in lonely silence at her machine.
. . . Where was the money coming from ? Such an un-
productive state as his required money for its upkeep.
His father was no toiler, but she was always working
there alone in the lonely room. Her hands were grown
gnarled and hard through her years of labor. . . . Just
presently she was probably discussing a dismal matter
of ways and means with some woman of the valley, say-
ing as she had said through the long years :
"Thank God and His Blessed Mother this night, I still
have me hands. Aye, that's what I was just saying to
Mrs. So and So this morning Thank God I still have me
Thus she was going on now, he imagined, as he had
always heard her, a pathetic figure sitting there and
looking painfully through the heavy, permanent mist that
was falling down upon her eyes. And yet it was not
thus she really was at this moment. For although it was
a woman who held her company, there was no mood of
peace between them. It was Marse Prendergast who was
with her, and she was proceeding busily with her eternal
280 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
whine. Mrs. Brennan was now disturbed in her mind
and fearful of the great calamity that might happen.
"While she had bravely maintained the money in the little
chest upstairs there had lingered, in spite of every afflic-
tion, a sense of quietness and independence. But now
she was without help and as one distraught. Of late this
gibbering old woman had obtained a certain power over
her, and a considerable portion of the once proud Mrs.
Brennan had fallen finally away. Although, at unac-
countable moments, her strong pride would spring up
to dazzle the people of the valley, she did not now possess
that remarkable imperviousness which had so distin-
guished her attitude towards life. Now she was in a
condition of disintegration, unable to maintain an an-
tagonism or hide a purpose. The old ruined woman, the
broken shuiler of the roads, was beginning to behold
the ruins of another woman, the ruins of Mrs. Brennan,
who had once been so " thick" and proud.
"So you won't hearken to me request?"
* ' I can 't, Marse dear. I have no money to give you ! ' '
This was a true word, for the little store upstairs had
gone this way and that. Tommy Williams had had to
be given his interest, and although people might think
that John was getting his education for charity, no one
knew better than she the heavy fees of the college in
Ballinamult. Besides, he must keep up a good appear-
ance in the valley.
But when Marse Prendergast made a demand she knew
no reason and could make no allowance.
"Well, Nan, me dear, I must do me duty. I must
speak out when you can't bribe me to be silent. I must
do a horrid piece of business this night. I must turn
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 81
a son against his mother. Yes, that must be the way of
it now, a son turned for good against his mother. For
surely there could be no pardon in his grand, holy eyes
for what you were once upon a time. But let me tell
you this, that I'd have acquainted him anyhow, for I'd
not have gone to me grave with that sin on me no matter
what. They say it isn 't right to offer a son to God where
there's after being any big blemish in the family, and
that if you do a woful misfortune or a black curse comes
of it. And sure that was the quare, big blemish in your
family, Nan Byrne, the quarest blemish ever was."
Mrs. Brennan began to cry. She seemed to have come
at last to the end of all her long attempt to brazen
things out. . . . Marse Prendergast was not slow to ob-
serve this acceptance of defeat, and saw that now surely
was her time to be hard and bitter. She was growing
so old, a withered stump upon the brink of years, and
there was upon her an enormous craving for a little
money. People were even driven, by her constant whine
for this thing and that, to say how she had a little store
of her own laid by which she gloated over with a wicked
and senile delight. And for what, in God's name, was
she hoarding and she an old, lone woman with the life
just cross-wise in her? . . . And it was always Mrs.
Brennan whom she had visited with her singular and
"I suppose now you think you're the quare, clever
one to be going on with your refusals from day to day.
I suppose you think I don't know that you have a chesht
full of money that you robbed from poor Henry Shannon,
God be good to him, when he used to be coming running
to see you, the foolish fellow!"
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
1 'As God's me judge, Marse Prendergast, I haven't
e'er a penny in the house. I'm in debt in Garradrimna
this blessed minute, and that's as sure as you're there!"
' ' Go on out of that with your talk of debts, and you to
be sending your son John through his college courses
before all our eyes like any fine lady in the land. And
think of all the grand money you'll be getting bye and
bye in rolls and cartloads!"
"Aye, with the help of God!"
Even in the moment of her torment Mrs. Brennan
could not restrain her vanity of her son.
"And to think of all that being before you now and
still you keep up your mean refusals of the little thing
I ask, ' ' said the old woman with the pertinacious unrea-
sonableness of age.
"I haven't got the money, Marse, God knows I
"God knows nothing, Nan Byrne, only your shocking
villainy. And 'tis the great sin for you surely. And if
God knows this, it is for some one else to know your sin.
It is for your son John to know the kind of a mother
that he loves and honors."
Mrs. Brennan had heard this threat on many an occa-
sion yet even now the repetition of it made her grow sud-
denly pale. . . . An expression of sickliness was upon
her face seen even through the shadowed sewing-room.
Always this thought had haunted her that some time
John might come to know.
' ' Long threatening comes at last ! ' ' was a phrase that
had always held for her the darkest meaning. She could
never listen to any woman make use of it without shud-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 283
dering violently. Marse Prendergast had threatened so
often and often.
"Ah, no, Nan Byrne, this is something I could never
let pass. And all the long days I saw you contriving
here at the machine, and you so anxious and attentive,
sure I used to be grinning to myself at the thoughts
of the bloody fine laugh I 'd be having at you some day.
I used, that's God's truth!"
It seemed terrible to be told the story of this hate
that had been so well hidden, now springing up before
her in a withering blast of ingratitude and being borne to
her understanding upon such quiet words. . . . She
sighed ever so slightly, and her lips moved gently in the
aspiration of a prayer.
"0 Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" was what she said.
The pious ejaculation seemed to leap at once towards
the accomplishment of a definite purpose, for immediately
it had the effect of moving Marse Prendergast towards the
" I 'm going now ! ' '
The words were spoken with an even more chilling
quietness. Mrs. Brennan made a noise as if to articulate
something, but no words would come from her.
"And let you not be thinking that 'tis only this little
thing I'm going to tell him, for there's a whole lot more.
I'm going to tell him all I know, all that 7 dadn't tell you
through the length of the years, though, God knows, it
has been often burning me to tell. . . . You think, I sup-
pose, as clever as you are, that the child was buried in the
garden. Well, that's not a fact, nor the color of a fact,
for all I've made you afraid of it so often. . . . Grace
284 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
Gogarty had no child of her own for Henry Shannon.
Ulick Shannon is your own child that was sold be your
ould mother for a few pound!"
" That's a lie for you, Marse Prendergast ! "
' l 'Tis no lie at all I 'm telling you, but the naked truth.
I suppose neither of them lads, Ulick nor John, ever
guessed the reason why they were so fond of one another,
but that was the reason ; and 'tis I used to enjoy seeing
them together and I knowing it well. Isn't it curious
now to say that you're the mother of a blackguard and
the mother of the makings of a priest ? . . . Mebbe you 'd
give me the little bit of money now ? Mebbe ? ' '
Mrs. Brennan did not answer. Big tears were rolling
down her cheeks one after the other. . . . Her heart had
been rent by this sudden flash of information. Even the
last remaining stronghold of her vanity had been swept
away. That she, who had claim in her own estimation
to be considered the wise woman of the valley, could not
have long since guessed at the existence of a fact so inti-
mate. . . . Her heart was wounded, not unto death, but
immortally. . . . Her son! Ulick Shannon her son!
O Mother of God!
John Brennan was still in his agony as he saw the
long-tongued shuiler coming towards him down the road.
She was making little journeys into the ditches as she
came along. She was gathering material for a fire al-
though every bush was green. . . . She was always shiv-
ering at the fall of night. The appearance of the chil-
dren had filled him with speculations as to where he
might look for some comfort. . . . Could it be derived
from the precepts of religion translated into acts of
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 285
human kindness? Momentarily lie was confused as he
attempted to realize some act of goodness to be done here
and now. He was unable to see.
Old Marse Prendergast, coming towards him slowly,
was the solitary link connecting his mind with any
thought. To him she appeared the poor old woman in
need of pity who was gathering green sticks from the
hedge-rows to make her a fire which would not kindle.
He remembered that morning, now some time distant,
when he had helped her carry home a bundle of her sticks
on his way from Mass. It had appeared to him then, as
it did now, a Christ-like action, but his mother had re-
buked him for it. Yet he had always wished his mother
to take the place of Mary when he tried to snatch some
comfort from the Gospel story. Soon he was by her side
speaking as kindly as he could. . . . Great fear was
already upon him.
* * God bless you, me little Johneen, me little son ; sure
'tis yourself has the decent, kind heart to be taking pity
upon the old. Arrah now ! You 're alone and lonely this
evening, I notice, for your friend is gone from you. It
bees lonely when one loses one 's comrade. Ah, 'tis many
a year and more since I lost me comrade through the
valley of life. Since Marks Prendergast, the good hus-
band of me heart and the father of me children, was lost
on me. Sure he was murdered on me one St. Patrick's
Day fair in Garradrimna. He was ripped open with a
knife and left there upon the street in his blood for me
to see. . . . That's the way, that's the way, me sweet
gosoon; some die clean and quiet, and some go away in
their blood like the way they came."
Had she devoted much time and skill to it she could
286 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
not have produced a more dire effect upon John than
by this accidental turn of her talk. . . . The scene by the
lakeside swam clearly into his eyes again.
"I suppose your good comrade is gone away?"
"Ulick Shannon, to be sure. I suppose he's after
slipping away be this time anyway. ' '
"Aye, he's he's gone away."
"That was what you might call the nice lad. And it
was no wonder at all that you were so much attached to
one another. Never a bit of wonder at all. . . . Sure
you were like brothers."
John was so solicitous in maintaining his silence that
he did not notice the old woman's terrible sententious-
ness. ... He went on pulling green sticks from the
hedge and placing them very carefully by the side of
those she had already gathered.
"Just like brothers. That's what ye were, just like
brothers. He, he, he!"
Although he did not detect the note of laughter in it
that was hollow and a mockery, he was nevertheless ap-
palled by what should appear as a commendation of him
who was gone. ... He felt himself shaking even as the
leaves in the hedgerows were being shaken by the light
wind of evening.
"Like brothers, avic machree."
Even still he did not reply.
"Like brothers, I say, and that's the whole story.
For ye were brothers. At least you were of the one
blood, because ye had the same woman for the mother
of ye both."
Certainly she was raving, but her words were having
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 287
an unusual effect upon him. He was keeping closer to
the hedge as if trying to hide his face.
"To-night, me fine gosoon, I'm going to do a terrible
thing. I'm going to tell you who your mother is, and
then you'll know a quare story. You'll know that Ulick
Shannon, good luck to him wherever he 's gone, was noth-
ing less than your own brother. ... It is she that is
after forcing me on to it be her penurious and miserly
ways. I didn't want to tell ye, John! I say, I didn't
want to tell ye!"
Her old, cracked voice trailed away into a high screech.
John Brennan was like a man stunned by a blow as he
waited for her to speak the rest of the story.
"Ulick Shannon's father, Henry Shannon, was the one
your mother loved. She never cared for your father, nor
he for her. So you might say you are no love child.
But there was a love child in it to be sure, and that child
was Ulick Shannon. Your mother was his mother. He
was born out of wedlock surely, but he happened handy,
and was put in the place of Grace Gogarty's child that
died and it a weeshy, young thing. ... It was your
grandmother that sold him, God forgive her, if you want
to know, for I was watching the deed being done. . . .
Your mother always thought the bastard was murdered
in the house and buried in the garden. I used to be for-
ever tormenting her by making her think that only
it was me could tell. There was no one knew it for
certain in the whole world, only me and them that were
dead and gone. So your mother could not have found
out from any one but me, and she might never have
found out only for the way she used to be refusing me of
me little dues. . . . But I can tell you that she found
288 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
out this evening how she was the mother of Ulick
Shannon, and that you, the beloved son she cherished
in her heart and put on in all her pride to be a priest
of God, was a near blood relation of the boy she was
never done but running down. The boy that she, above
all others, with her prate and gab made a drunkard of
in the first place, and then rushed on, be always talk-
ing of the like about him, to do great harm to this girl.
But sure it was myself that could not blame him at all,
for it was in him both ways, the poor, unfortunate
There was no reason to doubt the old shuiler's story,
with such passionate vehemence did it fall from her.
And its coherence was very convincing. It struck him
as a greater blow which almost obliterated his under-
standing. In the first moment he could stand apart
from it and look even blindly it appeared as the swift
descent of Divine vengeance upon him for what he had
just done. . . . He moved away, his mind a bursting
tumult, and without a sight in his eyes. . . . The mock-
ing laughter of Marse Prendergast rang in his ears.
Now why was she laughing at him when it was his mother
who was her enemy?
He was walking, but the action was almost unnoticed
by him. He was moving aimlessly within the dark, en-
circling shadow of his doom. . . . Yet he saw that he
was not far distant from Garradrimna. . . . The last
time he had been there at the period of the day he had
been in company with Ulick Shannon. It was what had
sprung out of those comings together that was now
responsible for this red ending. ... He remembered
also how the port wine had lifted him out of himself and
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 289
helped him to see Rebecca Kerr. . . . The windows were
squinting through the gloom as he went the road.
There was stronger drink in Garradrimna and pubs,
of greater intensity than McDermott's. There was "The
World's End," for instance, that tavern so fantastically
named by the Hon. Reginald Moore in memory of an inn
of the same name that had struck his fancy in England.
. . . The title now seemed particularly appropriate.
It was towards this place his feet were moving. In
another spell of thought which surprised him by the pre-
caution it exhibited, he remembered that his father would
not be there; for, although it had been Ned Brennan's
famous haunt aforetime, he had been long ago forbidden
its doors. It was in this, one of the seven places of
degradation in Garradrimna, he was now due to appear.
He went very timidly up to the back-door, which
opened upon a little, secluded passage. He ordered a
glass of whiskey from the greasy barmaid who came
to attend him. . . . He felt for the money so carefully
wrapped in tissue-paper in his waistcoat pocket. It was
a bright gold sovereign that his mother had given him
on the first day of his course at Ballinamult College
to keep against any time he might be called upon to
show off the fact that he was a gentleman. As he un-
folded it now, from the careful covering in which she
had wrapped it, it seemed to put on a tragic significance.
. . . He was fearfully anxious to be in the condition
that had brought him his vision on the night he had slept
by the lake.
He drank the whiskey at one gulp, and it seemed a
long time until the barmaid returned with the change.
Sovereigns were marvels of rare appearance at "The
290 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
World's End." He thanked her and called for another,
paying her as she went. She was remarkably mannerly,
for, in the narrow gloom of the place, she took him to
he some rich stranger. She had seen the color of his
money and liked it well.
The whiskey seemed to possess magical powers. It
rapidly restored him to a mood wherein the distress that
was his might soon appear a small thing. Yet he grew
restless with the urgency that was upon him and glanced
around in search of a distraction for his galloping brain.
. . . He bent down and peered through the little
aperture which opened upon the public bar of "The
World's End." In there he saw a man in a heated
atmosphere and enveloped by dense clouds of tobacco-
smoke. They were those who had come in the roads to
forget their sweat and labor in the black joy of porter.
Theirs was a part of the tragedy of the fields, but it was
a meaner tragedy. Yet were they suddenly akin to him.
. . . Through the lugubrious expression on their dark
faces a sudden light was shining. It was the light as if
of some ecstasy. A desire fell upon him to enter into
their dream, whatever it might be. ... In the wild
whirl that the whiskey had whipped up in his brain
there now came a sudden lull. It was a lull after a
great crescendo, as in Beethoven's music. . . . He was
hearing, with extraordinary clearness, what they were
saying. They were speaking of the case of Ulick
Shannon and Rebecca Kerr. These names were linked
inseparably and were going hand in hand down all the
byeways of their talk. . . . They were sure and certain
that he had gone away. There was not a sign of him in
Garradrimna this evening. That put the cap on his
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 291
guilt surely. Wasn't she the grand whipster, and she
supposed to be showing a good example and teaching
religion to the childer ? A nice one to have in the parish
indeed ! It was easy knowing from the beginning what
she was and the fellow she struck up with Henry
Shannon's son. Wasn't that enough for you? Henry
Shannon, who was the best blackguard of his time ! . . .
Just inside, and very near to John, a knot of men were
discussing the more striking aspects of the powerful
scandal. . . . They were recounting, with minute detail,
the story of Nan Byrne. . . . Wasn't it the strangest
thing now how she had managed more or less to live it
down? But people would remember it all again in the
light of this thing. What Ulick Shannon had done now
would make people think of what his father had done,
and then they must needs remember her. . . . And to
think that no one ever knew rightly what had become of
the child. Some there were who would tell you that
her sister, Bridget Mulvey, and her mother, Abigail
Byrne, buried it in the garden, and there were those
who would tell you that it was living somewhere at the
present time. . . . Her son John was not a bad sort, but
wasn 't it the greatest crime for her to put him on to be a
priest after what had happened her, and surely no good
could come of it? ... And why wouldn't Ned Bren-
nan know of it, and wasn't it that and nothing else that
had made him the ruined wreck of a man he was ? Sure
he'd never done a day's good since the night Larry
Cully had lashed out the whole story for his benefit.
And wasn't it quite possible that some one would be bad
enough to tell John himself some time, or the ecclesiasti-
cal authorities? What about the mee-aw that had hap-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
pened to him in the grand college in England that so
much had been heard of? And there was sure to be
something else happening before he was through the
college at Ballinamult. A priest, how are ye?
The whiskey had gone to his head, but, as he listened,
John Brennan felt himself grow more sober than he had
ever before been. ... So this was the supplement to the
story he had heard a while ago. And now that he knew
the whole story he began to tremble. Continually flash-
ing across his mind were the words of the man who was
dead and silent at the bottom of the lake "You could
never know a woman, you could never trust her; you
could not even trust your own mother. " This was a
hard thing for any man at all to have said in his life-
time, and yet how full of grim, sad truth did it now
appear? . . . The kind forgetfulness of his choking
bitterness that he had so passionately longed for would
not come to him. . . . The dregs of his heart were begin-
ning to turn again towards thoughts of magnanimity
as they had already done in the first, clear spell of
thought after his deed. He had then gone to gather
sticks for the old woman, a kind thing, as Jesus might
have done in Nazareth. . . . The change of the sovereign
was in his hand and his impulse was strong upon him.
He could not resist. It seemed as if a strong magnet
was pulling a light piece of steel. . . . He had walked
into the public bar of "The World's End." Around
him was a sea of faces, laughing, sneering, drinking,
sweating, swearing, spitting. He was calling for a drink
for himself and a round for the shop. . . . Now the sea
of faces was becoming as one face. And there was a look
upon it which seemed made up of incredulity and con-
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 293
tempt. . . . This was replaced by a different look when
the pints were in their hands. . . . They were saying:
"Good health, Mr. Brennan!" with a sneer in their tones
and a smile of flattery upon those lips which had just
now been vomiting out the slime of their minds.
There was another and yet another round. As long as
he could remain on his feet he remained standing drinks
to them. There was a longing upon him to be doing this
thing. And beyond it was the guiding desire to be rid
of every penny of the sovereign his mother had given
him to help him appear as a gentleman if he met com-
pany. . . . Now it seemed to soil him, coming as it did
from her. Curious that feeling after all she had done
for him, and she his mother. But it would not leave
The drink he had bought was fast trickling down the
many throats that were burning to receive it. The
rumor of his prodigality was spreading abroad through
Garradrimna, and men had gone into the highways and
the byeways to call their friends to the banquet. Two
tramps on their way to the Workhouse had heard of it
and were already deep in their pints. Upon John's
right hand, arrived as if by magic, stood Shamesy
Golliher, and upon his left the famous figure of Padna
Padna, who was looking up into his face with admira-
tion and brightness striving hard to replace the stare of
vacancy in the dimming eyes. As he drank feverishly,
fearful of losing any, Shamesy Golliher continuously
ejaculated: "Me sweet fellow, John! Me sweet
fellow!" And Padna Padna kept speaking to himself
of the grand thing it was that there was one decent
fellow left in the world, even if he was only Nan Byrne 's
294 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
son. Around John Brennan was a hum of flattery es-
sentially in the same vein. . . . And it seemed to him
that, in his own mind, he had soared far beyond them.
. . . Outwardly he was drunk, but inwardly he knew
himself to be very near that rapture which would bring
thoughts of Rebecca as he staggered home alone along
the dark road.
The companions of his Bacchic night had begun to
drift away from him. Ten o'clock was on the point of
striking, and he was in such a condition that he might
be upon their hands at any moment. They did not
want Walter Clinton, the proprietor of "The World's
End," to be giving any of them the job of taking him
home. The hour struck and the remnant went charging
through the doorways like sheep through a gap.
Shamesy Golliher limped out, leading Padna Padna by
the hand, as if the ancient man had suddenly become
metamorphosed into his second childishness. . . . "The
bloody -looking idiot!" they were all sniggering to one
another. "Wasn't it a hell of a pity that Ned Brennan,
his father, and he always bowseying for drink in Mc-
Dermott's and Brannagan's, wasn't in 'The World's
John was alone amidst the dregs of the feast. Where
the spilt drink was shining on the counter there was such
a sight of glasses as he had never before seen. There
were empty" glasses and glasses still standing with half
their drink in them, and glasses in which the porter
had not been touched so drunk had everybody been.
Walter Clinton came in indignantly and said that it
was a shame for him to be in such a state, and to go
home out of that at once before the peelers got a hold
THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS 295
of him. . . . And he went out with difficulty and down
the old road of the elms towards his mother's house in
the valley. He could hear the hurrying, heavy feet
of those he had entertained so lavishly far down before
him on the road. . . . For the moment he was happy.
Before his burning eyes was the form of Rebecca Kerr.
Her face had a look of quiet loveliness. He thought
it was like the faces of the Madonnas in Father
O'Keeffe's parlor. . . . ''Rebecca! Rebecca !" he called
to her ever in the agony of his love. ' ' Thy hands, dear
Rebecca!'* . . . She was not soiled now by any earthly
sin, for he had purified her through the miracle of blood.
And she was clean like the night wind.
He was a pitiable sight as he went staggering on,
crying out this ruined girl's name to the night silence
of the lonely places. ... At last he fell somewhere in
the soft, dewy grass. For a long while he remained
here until he began to realize that his vision was pass-
ing with the decline within him of the flame by which
it had been created. The winds upon his face and hair
were cold, and it seemed that he was lying in a damp
place. His eyes sprang open. . . . He was lying by the
lakeside and at the place where he had .murdered
He jumped up of a sudden, for his fear had come
back to him. With his mouth wide open and a clammy
sweat upon his brow, he started to run across what
seemed a never-ending grassy space. . . . He broke
madly through fences of thorn and barbed wire, which
tore his clothes and his hands. He stumbled across fields
of tillage. ... At last, with every limb shivering, he
came near his mother's door. . . . Presently he grew
296 THE VALLEY OF SQUINTING WINDOWS
coldly conscious. . . . He could hear his father mutter-
ing drunkenly within. He came nearer, striving hard
to steady himself and walk erect. He quickened his step
to further maintain his pretense of sobriety. His foot
tripped against something, and he lurched forward.
He was caught in his mother's arms, for, at the sound
of his approach, she had opened the door in resigned
and mournful expectation.
"0 Jesus !" she said.
There were two of them now.